Three from Brown win Rhodes Scholarships

Two undergraduates and one recent alum were awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships Saturday, marking only the second year since 1970 that more than one Brown applicant was chosen and the second year ever with more than two.

David Adler ’14, Abi Kulshreshtha ’15 and Kate Nussenbaum ’15 are among this year’s 32 Rhodes Scholarship recipients who will begin their studies at the University of Oxford next fall.

“I think we had a really deep pool,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships. “We had an extraordinary group of students who went forward.”

There were 12 finalists from Brown, representing 10 of the 16 districts in the United States recognized by the Rhodes Trust, Dunleavy said. “I think the strength of the pool overall this year was what made it possible for us to be successful in this way.”

The Rhodes Trust implemented a new rule for applicants this year: They could receive no outside help on their personal statements, Dunleavy said. “They weren’t able to get any feedback.”

“What we did in terms of supporting students was we tried to focus on their overall candidacy,” she said.

By giving applicants “complete responsibility” in their responses on this section, the new rule let students formulate answers “in a really genuine way,” she added.

Having graduated from Brown in May, Adler said applying for the Rhodes “was a very productive process because I don’t think I had yet the opportunity to process the experiences I had at Brown as an undergraduate.”

Adler, originally from Los Angeles, said his time as a development studies concentrator led him to discover “intellectual puzzles (that) compel me and excite me.”

He added that the process of figuring out various major issues in society has figured heavily in his postgraduate life, including his current work as a Fulbright scholar studying housing in Mexico.

As a Rhodes scholar, Adler hopes to continue to tackle “the big issues of citizen welfare” as he pursues a Master in Comparative Government.

While at Brown, served as managing editor of the College Hill Independent and as assistant director and head fellow of the Writing Fellows Program.

Adler also engaged in the community beyond College Hill by teaching weekly in a South Providence school. He also helped coordinate the Sexual Health Education Program.

Kulshreshtha, from Grapevine, Texas, said he was in Houston, the site of his interview, when he was notified he had been selected. “I was very much shocked. In that moment, I felt very lucky,”
he said. “All the other candidates were highly, highly qualified.”

Kulshreshtha, who double-concentrates in physics and economics, said he appreciates the connections between the two disciplines. “Those are two fields that I see as … to a certain extent intertwined because they both study modeling certain processes.”

“Physics studies modeling the physical world, and economics studies modeling human behavior (and) the way we interact with scarce resources,” said Kulshreshtha, who will pursue a doctorate in theoretical physics at Oxford.

“The thing that excites me most is, as someone who studies science myself, I’ll get to interact with people on a regular basis who are studying a variety of other subjects,” he said. “The most important thing for me is that I make sure to apply my background in science and policy to larger problems that we see in our nation here. So I’m hoping that interaction with Rhodes scholars and education at Oxford will help me fulfill those goals.”

Kulshreshtha has also served as a member of the Meiklejohn Leadership Committee and as president of Brown Model United Nations and this year’s secretary-general of Brown University Simulation of the United Nations. He said his involvement in these extracurricular activities has helped him build skills that will be useful to him in pursuing his goals.

Though the idea of not receiving any feedback on the essay made her feel anxious at first, Nussenbaum said she ultimately felt relieved. “Whatever I wrote, that was it, and I wouldn’t have any pressure to revise or anything else.”

Nussenbaum began applying to several fellowships over the summer. After the University endorsed her and the other finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship in September, she focused on her application and preparing for interviews.
Brown gives the Rhodes applicants two mock interviews in preparation. “I actually found the mock interviews scarier than the actual interviews,” Nussenbaum said.

During the interview process Saturday, the candidates from Nussenbaum’s district waited for six hours for the selectors to decide the winners, she said. “I guess it was just really hard for them to decide.”

After her name was announced as one of the two scholars from her district, Nussenbaum said, “I just sat there in disbelief. It was hard to process.”

Nussenbaum’s decision to pursue a Master of Science by conducting research at Oxford in the Department of Experimental Psychology came after working at Brown’s Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory since her sophomore year. Her research has focused on memory and how factors related to socioeconomic status influence brain and cognitive development, she added.

Nussenbaum said she enjoys her work at the lab “and the community and the ability to talk to different people about questions that I find inspiring,” she said, adding that Dima Amso, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, was a wonderful influence on her interests in research.

“At Brown, I’ve done some work thinking about the intersection of developmental psychology and education policy,” Nussenbaum said. The United Kingdom in particular has a strong social welfare system, which she is excited to learn about in more depth, she added.

Nussenbaum, a Herald senior editor, was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

  • By Kiki Barnes
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