2 Chicago-Area Natives Named Rhodes Scholars

Sarah Smierciak works with orphans in Egypt

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    A Northwestern grad from Lemont is part of an elite group of 32 people around the country who have been selected to be Rhodes Scholars.

    Two Chicago area residents were among 32 Americans named Rhodes Scholars on Saturday.

    Northwestern University graduate Sarah N. Smierciak, of Lemont, and University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate Alexis Brown, of Algonquin, received the prestigious award. 

    The awards announced early Sunday provide all expenses for study at Oxford University in England. The winners were selected from 830 applicants endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities. The scholars will enter Oxford next October.

    Smierciak graduated Northwestern in June with majors in history and Middle East language and civilization, according to Pat Vaughan Tremmel, Associate Director of Media Relations at Northwestern. She has also studied Arabic at the University of Cairo and Damascus University.

    She is currently living in Cairo and developing curriculum for orphans and street children in a special school recognized by the United Nations, Tremmel said.

    Smierciak has published articles on social justice and her own photography and is a docent on Egyptian art at The Field Museum, Tremmel said. She is also a triathlete.

    Brown is an English major and applied for the scholarship to complete a master of studies in English language and literature, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Web site.

    "We congratulate Alexis on winning the most prestigious of all higher education honors,” says Interim Chancellor David Ward. "In her, we see the makings of a gifted scholar who will be an effective voice for the humanities within academia and beyond."

    The annual Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowship in the world and applicants from more than 300 colleges and universities have been selected in the past. The first American entered Oxford in 1904.

    "Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead," the scholarship's Web site states.