Four Seniors Win Rhodes Scholarships

Four members of the Class of 2012 will spend the next two to three years studying at Oxford University free of cost after attaining the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, the Rhodes Trust announced Saturday.

Samuel M. Galler ’12, Spencer B. L. Lenfield ’12, Brett A. Rosenberg ’12, and Victor W. Yang ’12 competed with 830 students from 299 different colleges and universities for the 32 spots allotted to American applicants. A total of 83 scholarships were granted worldwide.

Lenfield, a history and literature concentrator in Eliot House, said he is excited to interact with some of the world’s brightest and most promising students.

“There’s an incredible community of former Rhodes Scholars you get to join,” he said. “It’s an honor to be considered in the same group as them. At the same time, it’s a phenomenal resource to be presented with.”

The Rhodes Trust does not require applicants to have a specific program of study at the time of application, but the four recipients plan to continue in areas related to their undergraduate study.

Galler, who pursued Advanced Standing at Harvard, will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies as well as a master’s in East Asian regional studies. The Quincy House senior is currently working on a thesis on the activity of non-governmental organizations in reaction to the spread of HIV/AIDS in China.

“I want to combine global health and regional studies and apply what I’ve been learning to health reform in China, or at least to health policy issues,” said Galler of his future goals.

Lenfield specializes in intellectual history in Great Britain during the 19th and 20th centuries, with emphasis on the Victorians and their impact on the present. For him, the chance to study in Great Britain, with easy access to British archival material, is an added bonus to being at Oxford.

“I’m really interested in the 20th century in Great Britain and America,” Lenfield said. “The development of the ways individuals relate to each other.”

Rosenberg, a history concentrator in Cabot House, has worked as a research assistant to prominent History Professor Niall C. D. Ferguson on a history of the Cold War, which is also the subject of her thesis.

“I was drawn to the Cold War for the silly reason that spies are fun,” Rosenberg said. “But I’ve been lucky enough to work with Professor Ferguson.”

Rosenberg’s passion for the Cold War will likely extend to Oxford, where she plans to study international relations with a focus on the Cold War era in particular.

Yang, a history and science concentrator in Winthrop House, first became interested in health issues as a volunteer in underserved areas of Boston. Yang has since focused on the intersection of medicine and society. His thesis examines non-traditional views of AIDS activism, particularly among minority groups.

At Oxford, he will be a part of a new program in public policy beginning next fall.

The Rhodes Scholarships’s lengthy and arduous application process takes place over more than three months. Students must first earn the endorsement of their college or university before filling out pages of applications and taking part in a series of interviews.

The interviews themselves cover a wide range of topics and require applicants to eloquently respond to a number of prompts they may know nothing about.

Galler, a former member of the a cappella group Din & Tonics, was even asked to sing for his interviewers. He performed the Chinese national anthem to complement his work in East Asian studies.

The four scholars said they are still in shock about being honored with the scholarship.

“In a lot of ways it feels like the magnificent day when I got into Harvard all over again,” Lenfield said.

The four recipients join a long list of Harvard Rhodes Scholars, as 336 Harvard graduates have received the scholarship in the past, including last year’s four scholars from Harvard.

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