Schuker will use her scholarship to study the relationship between politics and art at the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art.
Without a single U.S. Rhodes Scholarship awarded to a Harvard undergraduate this year, Schuker’s selection saved the College from a possible draught in the two most prestigious post-graduate scholarships.
Paul A. Bohlmann, Director of Fellowships at the Office of Career Services, said he was unsure of the reason for this year’s small number.
“I don’t think anything has really changed in the competition in recent years,” he said.
Schuker, interviewed amidst a swirling Crimson newsroom, expressed surprise and gratitude about the decision.
“The Marshall community is great—a smart, interesting group of people. There are lots of academics and journalists who I respect enormously,” Schuker said.
As a Marshall Scholar, Schuker joins heady company including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Having taken only one art history course while at Harvard, Schuker said that interdisciplinary classes taught by Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures Eric Rentschler and Bass Professor of English and American Literature and Language Louis Menand have “inspired her to study art in times of heightened politics.”
Menand praised Schuker’s performance both inside and outside of the classroom. “Lauren is not just incredibly smart and well-read and resourceful; she’s fun, one of the funnest people at Harvard, or anywhere else I’ve worked,” he wrote in an e-mail.
“It’s been a pleasure working with her and watching her get this well-deserved award, and I’ll miss her while she’s eating away all that superb British food,” the professor added in the e-mail.
An English and American Literature and Language Concentrator, Schuker is currently writing her thesis on Joan Didion.
Schuker said she chose to apply to Courtauld Institute of Art, relatively unknown in America, over Oxford and Cambridge because she wants to be in London and take advantage of its cultural and journalistic opportunities.
“The arts scene is pretty happening, and Cortauld is four blocks from where London’s newspapers are,” Schuker said.
To win the scholarship, Schuker had to go through an “excruciating” application and interview process.
Questioners grilled her on everything from the influence of Andy Warhol’s Eastern European ancestry on his art to the greater purpose of her studies.
“‘Lauren, we have people who want to study disease in Britain and help people,’” Schuker recalls being told, “‘and you want to study art. Why should we send you?’”
The Marshall Scholarship, like the Rhodes, provides students with the opportunity to pursue graduate studies and research in Britain for free. Unlike the Rhodes, the Marshall Scholarship’s mission is particularly focused on improving ties between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
The British government created the Marshall Scholarships after World War II to pay tribute to George Marshall and the Marshall Plan’s impact on the United Kingdom.
According to Terri Evans, a press officer in the British Consulate-General’s Boston office, the scholars are “meant to embody Marshall’s vision” and “work to reinforce the ties” across the Atlantic.
Schuker becomes Harvard’s 239th Marshall Scholar in the scholarship’s 51-year history. More Marshall scholars have come from Harvard than any other institution. Princeton and Yale have produced 112 and 101 Marshall Scholars, respectively, since the British Parliament awarded the first scholarships in 1953.
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