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WVU Scholarships
Top row: Emma Harrison and Andrea Pettit. Bottom row: Virginia "Ginny Thrasher, Morgan King, Karen Laska.

WVU endorses five for nation’s top scholarships

Five accomplished young women from the Honors College have been endorsed by West Virginia University to compete for three prestigious awards: the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships.

“Watching these talented students flourish as scholars and citizens makes me optimistic about the future of our country,” said Ken Blemings, dean of the Honors College. “At WVU, they found their calling and I have no doubt that they will continue to impact their chosen fields.”

Rhodes Scholarship

Three seniors have been endorsed for the Rhodes Scholarship not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good. The Rhodes Trust provides full financial support to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford.

Emma Harrison, of Morgantown, has already made a name for herself as an advocate for education in prison. Earlier this year, she was awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship for her work in West Virginia prisons. She is a double major in political science and multidisciplinary studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. If she is awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, she will study with one of the top international experts in the field of criminology.

“Working with the West Virginia Innocence Project ignited my passion for this field,” Harrison said. “I’m not sure if my efforts in prison reform will be in the areas of research, policy or litigation but I enjoy working directly with this population so I will continue to do that.”

Andrea Pettit is the 21st person in her family to attend WVU and it is her love of this school and this state that propels her to use her education to address health disparities in West Virginia. This aspiring physician is deeply concerned about people’s lack of access to health care services and how it exacerbates chronic diseases among the state’s population. By studying at Oxford, she believes she will learn from the U.K.’s National Health Service and bring a new perspective to West Virginia’s health care needs. The Morgantown native is an immunology and medical microbiology major in the School of Medicine who has been involved in research focusing on the differences between the sexes.

“Men and women have different immune responses and understanding those differences will expand the field of personalized medicine,” Pettit said. “The Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology has supported my research endeavors through an unparalleled two-year internship examining these issues.”

Virginia “Ginny” Thrasher is a biomedical engineering major in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources who developed a deep interest in the field of psychology through her experience with the WVU Rifle Team. After winning a gold medal in the women’s 10 meter air rifle at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she began contemplating how having a growth mindset—a belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—can be expanded to other fields. A native of Springfield, Virginia, Thrasher is a nine-time All American and national champion in her sport. She credits the growth mindset philosophy to much of her success.

“I am interested in conducting research to see how a growth mindset can be taught on a larger scale and in other areas outside of athletics such as addiction and leadership studies,” Thrasher said. “It would be incredible to explore this topic at a university like Oxford.”

Marshall Scholarship

Charleston native Morgan King graduated with a degree in civil engineering in May and is currently teaching English in Spain as a Fulbright Scholar. She will also be volunteering at a non-governmental organization focused on women’s empowerment. The Marshall Scholarship, which is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, would enable her to pursue two master’s degree programs in environmental systems engineering and public administration in science, engineering and public policy at the University College London.

“There is vast opportunity between the United States and the United Kingdom to deploy scientific diplomacy as solutions for consensus building globally,” King said. “The University College London promotes the development of future scientists and policymakers which aligns with my goal to work in the field of environmental policy and leadership.”

Mitchell Scholarship

Karen Laska of Wheeling wants to explore issues surrounding immigration in a European context. The topic is not just academic but personal. Her mother is Irish and her father is Polish so she is interested in how Ireland has successfully integrated Polish citizens into Irish society. She plans to work on a master’s degree in Migration and Diaspora Studies at University College Cork. Currently, she is a senior majoring in international studies, Slavic and Eastern European studies, and world languages (French) in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The Mitchell Scholarship was established by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance to connect Americans to Ireland and provides tuition, accommodation and a stipend for living expenses and travel.

“I have always been interested in immigration because of my family background but my experiences here at WVU also contributed to my interest,” Laska said. “I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who have shared their cultures and experiences with me and this reinforced my belief that the contributions of immigrants help America grow and develop.”

These young women will learn in the coming months if they are named as finalists for these scholarships. The ASPIRE Office prepares students who want to compete for nationally competitive scholarships like these. Students who are interested in applying can email aspire@mail.wvu.edu to set up an appointment.

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