CONTACT: Elaine Ray, News Service (650) 723-7162
History students win Marshall Scholarships
Mark Bell was having lunch in Haus Mitteleuropa when Marshall Scholarship officials left a message with the good news. Alison Post was so sick with the flu that she had left her office at the Haas Center for Public Service when her call came, but scholarship officials caught up with her at home. For Bell and Post, news that they had been chosen for the prestigious honor was a welcome reward for months of interviews, essays and anticipation.
Bell, a senior majoring in history, started writing his Marshall application in late September, composing three different personal essays before settling on the one he wanted to submit. Then he wrote 20 or 30 drafts of the essay before he was satisfied.
Post, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in June, had begun much of the process last year when she applied for a Rhodes scholarship. But updating and tailoring her application specifically for the Marshall was a bit of a challenge, particularly since she was in the midst of a job change and a move from Berkeley to Palo Alto.
"It's good for us," said Jack Rakove, the Coe Professor of History and American Studies, who wrote recommendations for both of this year's winners. "Like any prize competition, there's always an element of a crap shoot to it. [In this case, however,] their committees made absolutely the right decision. They're wonderful kids," Rakove added.
Rakove has known Post since her sophomore year, when she came to him after a lecture and asked for extra reading. Shortly after that encounter, he became her adviser, watching her develop "from an excellent student to a budding scholar" and "prodigious researcher." Post's senior thesis on the history of the War on Poverty and community development in East Palo Alto earned her the university's Golden Medal for undergraduate research. "I've never had a student who is more systematic about really trying to look at the strengths and weaknesses of different disciplines," Rakove said.
Post, who grew up in Montgomery, N.J., will study regional and urban planning at the London School of Economics, which approaches urban planning from several disciplines, including economics, geography and political science. She's excited about meeting students from all over the world who are exploring these issues. "Even if you go back and do your work regionally, it's important to see the global ramifications," she said. Post credits the history department for nurturing undergraduate students and the Haas Center, where she is currently the South Bay program developer, for helping her to probe the "whole idea of what a public intellectual should be."
Bell plans to study at the University of Sussex, where he will conduct research on Stephen Marshall, a 17th-century Presbyterian divine whose sermons to Parliament were a major influence during the English Revolution. "Marshall provides an ideal case for examining the interaction between religion and revolution," Bell wrote in his Marshall Scholarship application.
Although Rakove had had some contact with Bell during his sophomore year, the two got to know each other last year while at Oxford.
He described Bell as "clearly one of the most advanced, intellectually precocious undergraduates in history that we've had in a long time."
Bell eagerly awaits his time at Sussex; however, his short-term plans include celebrating with his family in Atlanta. After all, the Marshall call came at the beginning of Dead Week: not exactly party time on the Farm. "It's hard to rally people to celebrate with. I kind of had to put it on pause and so it will be nice to go home and be able to relax," Bell said.
The Marshall Scholarships were established by the British government in 1953 as an expression of thanks for aid given by the United States after World War II under the Marshall Plan.
By Elaine Ray