Fiona Rose is U's 24th Rhodes Scholar

By Travis Paddock
News and Information Services


"As soon as the judges announced the recipients, I started crying . . . it was just such a relief." On Dec. 6, LS&A senior Fiona Rose became the 24th U-M student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.

The announcement followed the infamous Rhodes regional interviews, during which the finalists are grilled on a number of topics often quite removed from their fields of study. "The commission asked me questions about interest rates, cloning, global warming, Nike and the University, and asked me to analyze works of Latin literature," Rose says. "The applicant before me was a medieval studies concentrator, so we also had a discussion about medieval history."

Rose started preparing for the interview in September. "I began reading two or three newspapers a day, listening to National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation, studying everything from medical journals to foreign policy to scientific literature."

Rose says the University offered her a great deal of support. The LS&A Honors Office, the Department of Classical Studies and a number of faculty members assisted her in preparing her essays and practicing in mock interviews. A few of the Regents even invited her to their homes to offer some advice. "It seemed as if the entire University was coming out to support me," Rose says.

U-M's last Rhodes recipient, Leah Niederstadt, assisted Rose in preparing for the interview and with information on the types of questions that would be asked. "Leah encouraged me to reflect on my priorities and focus on how public education has made a difference in my life."

Grateful not only for the support of the U-M, but also for the variety of opportunities it offers, Rose says that the "U-M is unique among public universities in that it stresses community service and public outreach, an important factor that the Rhodes committee took into account."

Much of her inspiration for some of the projects she has been involved in, including founding a student-funded child care program and working as an aide to deaf students, wouldn't have been available elsewhere. "Had I gone to a smaller, private university, I wouldn't have known nearly as diverse a student body, or been exposed to as many different views."

With parents who were undergraduate students when she was born, Rose spent much of her childhood in low-income public housing. She gained a good grounding in the political process in her teens, first volunteering, then as a full-time paid coordinator on a U.S. Senate campaign in her senior year at Community High School in Ann Arbor. Originally entering the University through the School of Music, she has played the viola since she was seven.

Rose changed her major to classical archaeology her sophomore year, falling in love with the subject after taking an introductory course. She expects to graduate in May with a bachelor's in classical archaeology.

At Oxford, she plans to earn a master's of philosophy in classical archaeology. Studies, however, won't be the only thing on her mind. "People tend to forget that Oxford is a whole experience, not just two years in a library. I would like to row on the crew team, join the Oxford Union, their debating society, and play in an orchestra."

The Rhodes Scholarship provides Rose with two years of tuition at Oxford, renewable for a third. Accepting the Rhodes Scholarship puts some of Rose's other plans on hold. She also received the Truman Scholarship earlier this year, granting her $27,000 for two years of graduate studies. She has deferred the Truman award until she has completed her studies at Oxford. "First, I plan to gain a solid foundation in classical archaeology at Oxford, then return to the States to complete a master's in public policy.

"Though an education at Oxford will prepare me for any number of careers, I plan to return to Michigan to give back to the public what they have given to me." Rose has long planned to return to her native state to work in education reform and to expand financial aid programs. She feels as if she owes the state a debt. "Public education has made me the person I am today."

The Rhodes scholarships were founded by the estate of philanthrophist and diamond merchant Cecil Rhodes. The prestigious awards are available in formerly British colonies and consist of two years of tuition to Oxford College in Oxford, England. Thirty-two scholarships were available in the United States this year, 13 of which went to women. The competition was opened to women in 1976.

Rose also emphasized her commitment to advancing the representation of women in society. "As the second female Rhodes scholar from U-M, I am particularly hopeful that I will be able to use this gift to make strides for women in academia."