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HTC student wins prestigious Marshall Scholarship

Dec. 5, 2007
By Mary Reed

Bob Arnold got the phone call on a Wednesday night. It was the Marshall Scholarship's British Consul-General in Chicago congratulating the Ohio University political science major on winning a 2008 Marshall Scholarship. Thrilled, Arnold called his parents ("There was a lot of shouting on their end") and then his mentor, Distinguished Professor of Economics Richard Vedder. Next, he hung up the phone and returned to studying for Vedder's economics final exam, scheduled the following morning.

Bob Arnold photo by Rick FaticaArnold, who is pursuing a combined bachelor's and master's degree in the Honors Tutorial College, said the news has been slow to sink in. "Even after (the phone call), it was something that was sort of unfathomable to me," he says.

Arnold will head off to the London School of Economics and Political Science next fall to complete two fully funded master's degrees in philosophy of the social sciences and political theory. He is the only 2008 Marshall Scholar from an Ohio institution. 

"We met Bob Arnold and interviewed him over a wide range of subjects for 30 minutes. Clearly, we were impressed because we chose him as a Marshall Scholar," says James Shapiro, professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago and a member of Arnold's interview committee. "That means we expect him to do very well at his studies in the UK and to become a leader in his field. Our selection also indicates that we believe he has the potential for achieving national or international recognition."

Arnold is the third Ohio University student to win a Marshall; Jessica Benson and Natalie Kruse were 2004 Marshall Scholars. About 40 scholars are chosen from a pool of about 1,000 applicants each year.

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In addition, Andy Goodhart, a senior Honors Tutorial College political science major, was selected as a reserve candidate for the honor this year. Goodhart was among the 20 percent of applicants who, as finalists, earned an interview. Out of those finalists, only 20 percent again were selected as a reserve candidates, meaning Goodhart might still earn a Marshall should someone be unable to accept their slot.

The British Parliament established the scholarship in 1953 to thank the American people for the post-World War II recovery Marshall Plan, named for U.S. Gen. George C. Marshall. Its most comparable award is the Rhodes Scholarship, also designed to allow outstanding American students to study in Britain.

About the Marshall


The scholarships were established by an act of the British Parliament in 1953 as a gesture of thanks for the United States' assistance in rebuilding Europe after World War II through the Marshall Plan.

The idea was to build on the Rhodes Scholarships, established a half-century earlier, by extending the concept for the Rhodes (available only to men at the time) and apply it without distinction of gender and with a wider age range.

Total value of the scholarship varies a little according to the circumstances of each scholar (place of residence, selected university, etc.) but the figure tends on average to be $40,000 a year.


Each year, 40 scholars (from more than 1,000 applicants) are selected to spend two years in graduate school at a British university, with all expenses paid by the British government. Marshall Scholars must have at least a 3.7 GPA; students from all fields of study may apply.

According to the application guidelines, selection committees look for students with "distinction of intellect and character as evidenced both by their scholastic attainments and by their other activities and achievements." Preference is given to "candidates who display a potential to make a significant contribution to their own society."

In 2007, 57 percent of the 44 Marshall Scholars attended Ivy League and private institutions; 32 percent attended state and public universities; and 11 percent attended service academies.

Only 21 students studying at institutions in Ohio have been selected as Marshall Scholars since the program's inception. 

The selection process in the United States is managed by the British Council on behalf of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and regional Consulates-General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Ohio University students apply in the Chicago region.

Past winners

Ohio University has had two previous Marshall Scholars, Jessica Benson and Natalie Kruse, both named in 2003. Benson studied organic photovoltaics at Imperial College, while Kruse studied abandoned coal mine remediation at Newcastle University. Both recently earned their doctorates.

Notable winners also have included Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, former Arizona governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Anne Applebaum and Ray Dolby of Dolby sound technology fame.

"Bob is probably the best all-around student that I've had in 42 years of teaching at Ohio University -- and I've had over 10,000," Vedder says. In class on that final exam day (Arnold got an 'A,' by the way), Vedder did something he has never done before: praise one student in front of the entire class. Upon learning that Arnold had won a Marshall, Vedder says, "the class broke out in strong and spontaneous applause, which was lovely."

Arnold credits Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College as a major force in his academic success. 

"The level of interaction with the faculty ? I'm not sure I could have gotten an experience comparable to that anywhere (else) in the country," says Arnold, who chose Ohio University over Cornell and the University of Chicago. "Being able to exchange so many ideas with people who study these things for a living lets you be more passionate about it than when you're just somebody at a big name school. The college does a great job of building a sense of community."

By all accounts, Arnold is a voracious reader and an intellectually gifted student. "I'm terribly impressed with his capacity for curiosity. He really, truly wants to know a lot about a lot of things in a serious way," says HTC Dean Ann Fidler. 

"What comes through from his tutorial evaluations is he's intellectually gifted in a lot of different realms. He's not just good at X. He's good at Y, he's good at Z, and he's good at seeing how all these things fit together."

Arnold interned last summer with the Congressional Joint Economic Committee in Washington, D.C., giving him the opportunity for his farthest trip yet from home. Through the Marshall, he says, he's "looking forward to interacting with students from across the world."

But first, he has his HTC thesis to write. Arnold's topic is methodological pluralism ? that is, using multiple methods to explain social science phenomena ? and how using multiple methods can strengthen research in political economy and political theory, the two subjects about which he's most passionate.

After completing his master's degrees in London, Arnold says he wants to return to the United States to pursue a doctorate, most likely in political science and hopefully at Yale. He and his professors agree that a career in academia is in his future. Arnold envisions himself as a public intellectual, bridging the gap between strict academics and popular discourse. 

"He will be teaching at a high-level university," predicts Vedder, who plans to visit Arnold in London next year. "I have never been more excited about an individual student's accomplishment. He's going to be a very serious and important scholar in whatever field he ultimately ends up pursuing."

Louis Blair, executive secretary emeritus of the Truman Scholarship Foundation is a past member of the selection committee for the Marshall's Washington, D.C., region. He calls the Marshall an "extraordinarily rigorous intellectual competition" and points out that a student must be outstanding but also must have the commitment of his or her institution to prevail. "You're reading 150 applications, all wonderful students with great promise, and you wrestle to get it down to 20 to interview, and at the end of the interview, it's actually fairly easy. The stars reveal themselves," he says. "I say bravo to Ohio and (Bob Arnold)."

  If you wish to speak with a media specialist about this story, contact Media Specialist Katie Quaranta at 740-593-0858 or quaranta@ohio.edu.


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