Only one American student received a Rhodes scholarship this year, down from six last year, but many Harvard officials yesterday said this was a mere coincidence.
"It's just the luck of the draw," Adams House fellowship adviser Gail P. Mazzara said, summarizing the views of other advisers. "There's not anything you can point to," she added.
Mark H. Helmericks '82 of Colville, Alaska, and Winthrop House was Harvard's American recipient of a Rhodes. In addition, Laurence S. Grafstein '82 of Toronto, Ontario, and Winthrop House was awarded a scholarship from the Canadian Ontario Rhodes Scholarship committee.
Rhodes scholars study for two years at Oxford University in England, with all tuition and fees paid. They also receive a stipend of around $6000 per year.
For the past three years, Harvard has led the nation in the number of Rhodes scholars named, receiving six American awards each year. This year, followed with three. Regional committees award a total of 32 Rhodes scholarships each year in the United States.
"Harvard submitted the same number of applicants this year as in past years, and the percentage of applicants selected for interviews remained high," Graham Holmes, fellowship director of the Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning, said yesterday.
Kevin P. Van Anglen, fellowship adviser of Eliot House, said once applicants reach the interview stage, "anything can happen. The chemistry of different committees and the large number of qualified applications make the situation unpredictable."
However, Fen Hampson, fellowship adviser of Lowell House, said he believes Harvard is sending too many people to the various state committees and not making an adequate attempt to pre-screen the University nominees.
He added that because Harvard submits such a large number of applicants, they are not all considered seriously. "Nominating so many applicants undermines the credibility of the really good ones," he said. But none of the other fellowship advisers contacted mentioned this as a problem.
Helmericks, an Economics and Geology major, looks forward to studying geology at Oxford. He said he believes an important factor in his selection was his "unique background."
Home educated in an Alaskan village of 11 people, Helmericks came to Harvard after high school at a Fairbanks, Alaska, boarding school. He now divides his time between rowing lightweight crew and writing his Geology thesis.
Commenting on the Rhodes selection process, Helmericks said, "At the district level, it's more luck than anything else" that determines the scholarship recipients.
Grafstein, executive editor of The Crimson, is majoring in Social Studies, and intends to study politics while in England. He said he believes the Ontario Rhodes committee awarded him the scholarship because they were looking for someone who was committed to Canada. "I certainly am," he said. "The most difficult question of the interview was when they asked me if I would handle the issue of Quebec separatists differently from the Canadian government," he added.
The Canadian selection process is different from the American process; there is only one longer interview, as opposed to two for Americans. Eleven students receive Canadian Rhodes scholarships each year
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