Rhaina Cohen, a Northwestern University undergraduate with a passion for gender equality and policy, and Chelsea Glenn, a summa cum laude 2013 Northwestern alumna with a passion for social change, were awarded Marshall Scholarships in late November. The double win marks the fourth time that Northwestern has claimed two of the highly prestigious international scholarships in the same year.

Cohen, an American studies major from East Brunswick, New Jersey, will study comparative social policy for two years in a master’s program at the University of Oxford.Glenn, who majored in economics and international studies, is currently a Fulbright-García Robles Scholar in Mexico City, conducting research on the effects of easily accessible consumer credit on household welfare. As a Marshall Scholar, she hopes to spend one year at Oxford in a master’s degree program in development economics and one year at the University of Sussex working on a master’s in globalization in development.

We recently caught up with Cohen and Glenn to discuss their reaction to the honor and what lies ahead:

Where were you when you heard the news and what was your reaction?

I was sitting in a cab, riding back to Evanston from O'Hare, when I noticed a voicemail. The chair of the selection committee, who interviewed me that morning in New York, had left a message congratulating me for winning the scholarship. I was shocked and trembled for a few minutes while I called to share the news with my family. I don't think I stopped smiling that night.

When I heard the news, I was sitting at my desk back in Mexico City. I was surprised and excited, but mostly, I felt really relieved! I Skype called my parents, but they didn't pick up, so the first person I could get ahold of was Beth Pardoe from NU's Office of Fellowships. Considering the monumental help and support she gave me throughout the process, Beth was a pretty worthy first responder!

What does receiving the Marshall Scholarship mean to you?

When I learned that I had won the award, as overjoyed as I was for the experience in the UK that lies ahead for me, I felt I had done right by the Northwestern faculty and Office of Fellowships staff who supported and pushed me throughout the application process. They encouraged me to be both bold and thoughtful in my thinking and confident and precise while speaking. The way I see it, this scholarship serves as a testament to the work of a group of people to whom I feel indebted.

The Marshall means several really crucial things for me. First, it provides me the opportunity to pursue what I love for two years, offering me access to globally oriented development programs which will hopefully challenge my perspectives and understanding about the field and push me to become a wiser and more thoughtful practitioner. Second, the Marshall inducts me into a rich and diverse community of current and past scholars who are pursuing fabulous work in a multitude of sectors around the globe. I feel so privileged to join such a deep and accomplished intellectual community, which I hope to engage with and learn from both during my two years in the UK and beyond. Finally, the Marshall allows me to directly and immediately apply my Fulbright research to my Master's study, which will help me better understand and analyze the data I am collecting in Mexico City.

excites you the most about this opportunity?

  I'm most excited to participate in Oxford's traditions: joining a choir, spending evenings in the Oxford pubs where famous authors used to meet, attending formal hall dinners, listening to speakers at the Oxford Union, and being surrounded by bright students from all over the world.

Glenn: I am most excited to join the globally oriented intellectual community at my academic institution. The programs to which I am applying boast both faculty and students from around the world, and I look forward to learning about their variety of experiences, perspectives, and knowledge.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be studying while in England?

I plan to study comparative social policy at Oxford, concentrating on policies that promote gender equality that include public child care, paid family leave and paid sick leave.

Glenn: I will be studying development economic theory and how the market and the government interact to either promote or inhibit development. I most likely will reorient back toward Africa, specifically East Africa. (My senior thesis was on Ethiopian refugees; however, I am currently researching in Mexico.)

How has your Northwestern experience helped prepare you for this success?

More than any other part of the University, Northwestern’s American Studies program has prepared me for the kind of work I expect to do at Oxford as well as in journalism. From the close-knit, self-directed program that fosters close relationships between faculty and students, I’ve gained an appreciation for learning from others (earlier this quarter, a professor told our class that learning is a social activity. That idea has stayed with me) and studying any subject that piques my curiosity.

Throughout my four years at Northwestern, I benefited from an astounding set of University-provided resources and opportunities. I was able to intern at a non-profit in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with NU's Global Engagement Studies Institute and do independent research in Ethiopia on a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant. Northwestern's unique emphasis on student leadership opportunities provided me access to a plethora of resources, from a private leadership coach through NU Center for Leadership to various NU-sponsored student groups such as the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights. The Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies hosted guest academics and practitioners almost weekly, who spoke about development work, human rights, and poverty. I am truly astounded by what a rich and personalized experience NU provided me, and of course, I am very grateful for how open my professors were to helping me along the way, especially Professors Jeff Rice, Galya Ruffer, and Brian Hanson. 

So how are you planning to prepare for two years abroad?

I'm trying to improve my understanding of history and current events in Europe. I regularly listen to the BBC and plan to audit a British history class next quarter. After I discovered that a store in Evanston sells clotted cream, I've baked scones several times. If you're generous, that could count as preparation too.

My Fulbright research in Mexico City is great preparation; although, Britain is basically the antithesis of where I live now. It will be cold. There will be a depressing dearth of 80-cent steak tacos. The beer will taste monumentally better but be three times as expensive. Before I arrive, I want to research more about all of the wonderful cultural idiosyncrasies and uniquely British experiences that the country has to offer. I lived in London for a summer, but I know woefully little about the rest of the country, and I am excited to explore it once I arrive.

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