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ASU Provost's Office helps potential Fulbright scholars navigate tricky process.
March 17, 2017

Only four schools in the nation boast Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholars

Fulbright Day on Tuesday allows Arizona State University to bolster the reputation it’s earned as a top producer of such scholars, but it’s not the only award that puts the school in elite company. ASU, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago are the only institutions with Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholarship winners. 

“It’s a really potent and clear statement about our breadth and the excellence of our programs that students with such different backgrounds and goals can demonstrate not just at a national but at a global level their competence and vision,” said Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College.

ASU has maintained its position as a top producer of faculty and student Fulbright scholars, with six faculty members and 15 students currently in the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. ASU ties for No. 6 in faculty awards with Cornell, Georgia, Texas, Washington and Western Michigan. ASU ranks No. 11 for student awards, aligning with Boston College, Cornell, Northwestern, Louisville and Maryland. 

The overall elite company is "really exciting because ASU is also the most innovative school, and it goes to show that the potential here is unlimited and there’s a lot happening behind the scenes,” said Ngoni Mugwisi, an ASU student and 2017 Rhodes Scholar, referencing the U.S. News & World Report distinction that ASU has garnered two years running, ahead of Stanford and MIT. “We three are fortunate to be taking center stage at this point, but this is just the beginning.”

All three of the elite scholarship winners are in Barrett, The Honors College, and will graduate in May. They are:

• Erin Schulte, a global studies major, the 18th ASU student to win the Marshall ScholarshipThe Marshall Scholarship, which selects up to 40 winners every year, was created to express the gratitude of the British people to America after World War II. The most recent ASU winners were in 2014 and 2012. since it was established in 1953. Schulte will attend King’s College in London and pursue two degrees, in conflict security and development and in big data in culture and society. She hopes to work in international security and development. At ASU, she was co-founder of the All Walks Project, a student-led non-profit that educates people about human trafficking.

• Ngoni Mugwisi, an electrical engineering major, ASU’s first Rhodes ScholarThe Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and perhaps most prestigious international graduate scholarship program in the world, established in 1903 by empire builder John Cecil Rhodes. ASU has had a total of five Rhodes Scholars, and the most recent, Philip Mann in 2001, is currently the conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. since 2001. A native of Zimbabwe, he is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and will pursue a PhD in engineering science at the University of Oxford. At ASU, he started Solar Water Solutions, a hybrid non-profit and business venture to retrofit water wells in Zimbabwe with solar-powered pumps.

• Christopher Balzer, a chemical engineering major, ASU’s first Churchill ScholarThe scholarships, the brainchild of Winston Churchill, were first awarded in 1963 and select 14 people annually for a year of graduate study in science, mathematics or engineering.. Balzer will study advanced chemical engineering at the University of Cambridge. At ASU, he participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and won a Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes excellence in science, math and engineering.

ASU's top international scholarship winners are (from left) Erin Schulte, a Marshall Scholar; Ngoni Mugwisi, a Rhodes Scholar; and Christopher Balzer, a Churchill Scholar. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

This convergence of top-level winners could not have happened until recently, as ASU students have only been eligible to apply for the Churchill Scholarships since 2013.

In all three of the international scholarships, only about 25 percent of the American winners are from public institutions such as ASU.

All three students credit the national scholarship advisement office with preparing them for the grueling application process. Schulte said she sat for 12 nomination, practice and finalist interviews.

“They helped me think through my story and think critically about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it,” Mugwisi said.

Mox, the next president of the National Association of Fellowship Advisers, said that ASU has one of the oldest and best fellowship advising offices in the country.

“One thing we do is find the students. It’s a large school, and we have to get the right information to the right students at the right time,” he said. The staff also works with students during the spring and summer before the fall Fulbright application deadline, rewriting essays, refining goals and coming up with project ideas.

ASU’s Provost’s Office works with faculty members who are seeking Fulbright Scholar positions, including offering a mentor application review, where Fulbright alums review faculty applications, according to Karen Engler-Weber, program director in the Office of the University Provost.

She said it’s no surprise that ASU is a top producer of faculty Fulbrights, because the program’s goals align closely with ASU’s charter and mission.

“Fulbright is looking for three critical things when they review Fulbright Scholar applications: impact, inclusion and innovation. These are things our faculty are already doing in their work,” Engler-Weber said.

While some faculty may hesitate to seek out an opportunity that would take them out of the country, Engler-Weber said there are new types of awards that allow the time abroad to be broken up into multiple shorter stays, and some packages include financial support and benefits to support bringing a family.

Mox said he would like more ASU students to apply for Fulbright positions.

“They don’t see it as something achievable, and we’re here to tell you it is.”

Fulbright Day will be held Tuesday at the Memorial Union, with workshops and information for faculty from noon to 1:30 p.m., and sessions for students from 3 to 4:30 p.m. A networking reception with current and former Fulbright award-winners will follow at 4:30. Click here for more information.


Top photo courtesy of

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Black Lives Matter figure DeRay Mckesson speaks at ASU about activism

Black Lives Matter figure stresses power of activism to ASU crowd.
March 20, 2017

Movement organizer praises the power of social media, urges students to enact positive social change in their community

A message posted outside the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom on Monday night forbade the presence of posters and signs at a student-organized talk being given by DeRay Mckesson, one of the most outspoken members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The international activist movement that began in 2013 with a Twitter hashtag in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin has been at the center of a politically and socially charged conversation concerning violence and perceived systemic racism toward black people in the U.S. criminal justice system since.

But the event on ASU’s Tempe campus where Mckesson spoke to a group of roughly 350 students, faculty, staff and members of the community was peaceful and informative, covering topics from the power of social media, to the importance of engaging others in the cause, to productive next moves. 

“As organizers, we give you the language and the tools” to enact positive change, Mckesson told the crowd, referring to himself and other influential activists associated with Black Lives Matter. “But you have to carry this stuff with you every day, at work, at home” and everywhere else.

The event was organized by students from various groups including Undergraduate Student Government, Rainbow Coalition and Black African Coalition.

Geography and urban planning undergrad and president of Rainbow Coalition Gabriel Leon said having someone speak to students about activism has “the power to deepen and broaden their perspective of the world.”

Mckesson began his talk with images from the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the shooting death of another young black man, Michael Brown, by white police officer Darren Wilson. If it weren’t for social media, Mckesson said, nobody would have known Brown’s body lay in the street for four hours before being removed by medical personnel.

Mckesson himself has more than 750,000 Twitter followers. He praised social media in general for its ability to allow everyday people to tell the story of what’s really going on around them — “telling the truth in public,” as he calls it.

In April 2015, Mckesson and fellow activists Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe and Brittany Packnett launched Mapping Police Violence, which collected data on people killed by police during 2014. In August 2015, the same group launched Campaign Zero, a 10-point policy plan for police reform.

He addressed the issue Monday night, saying, “There’s very little data on police.” He added that most of that data comes from an aggregate of newspaper reports, which is a problem because it can be inaccurate.

Although he preferred to avoid commenting too much about President Donald Trump (“because he’s stressing me out right now,” he said), Mckesson did speak about having met with former presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as well as former President Barack Obama, to advance the mission of Black Lives Matter.

He stressed the importance of activists having a presence and voicing their concerns both amongst each other and to people in power. 

“We have to be on the inside as well as the outside,” Mckesson said. “Us being present at the table is our attempt to make truth present at the table.”

He proved that conviction in 2016 when he ran for mayor of his hometown, Baltimore. Though he lost, the experience — during which he sometimes spoke to neighborhood crowds in living room gatherings — served as “a deep reminder of the power of organizing at the local level.”

At the close of his talk, Mckesson told the audience that they have “the power to stand up right now and do something beautiful” through protest, and that the most compelling data they have to back up their cause is their own lives.


Top photo: Educator and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson speaks to a group of students Monday in the Memorial Union on ASU's Tempe campus. Mckesson is a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, and his speech focused on campaign strategies, the origins of Black Lives Matter and the role of activism in the current political climate. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657