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Two for the Rhodes

UGA is the only public university in the U.S. this year with more than one Rhodes Scholar

by Kelly Simmons

Two years out of UGA, Kate Vyborny was in Washington last spring when she decided to return to school. A job with the Center for Global Development had allowed her to develop a Washington perspective on development policy.

“I started to feel like what I need to do now is step back from it—go back into academics,” says Vyborny, a UGA Foundation Fellow, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and degrees in economics and international affairs.

A junior biology and international affairs double major, Deep Shah already had won the prestigious Truman Scholarship and was headed for medical school once earning his undergraduate degrees in May 2008. A Foundation Fellow like Vyborny, he also felt called to pursue something more.

Shah (left) plans to attend medical school after completing his degree at Oxford. Vyborny plans to help set policy for global economic development. Both students say their career goals were influenced by their international experiences at UGA. Photo by Dot Paul
In November, Vyborny and Shah both received word that they had won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s most distinguished academic honors. UGA is the only public university this year with more than one Rhodes recipient. In September, Vyborny and Shah, whose paths crossed briefly at UGA, will meet again, this time in Oxford, England. Vyborny will pursue a degree in economics for development, while Shah plans to study global health science and comparative social policy.

For Shah, Oxford will provide the perfect opportunity to meld public service into his medical career—something he thinks is missing in the medical field today.

“I’ve grown up with physicians,” says Shah, whose parents are both doctors. “Many of my parents’ colleagues did not necessarily see how they could contribute to the greater problems in health care beyond their regular practices. This has created a vacuum of leadership (in setting public policy) by physicians.”

Vyborny’s studies will allow her to learn more about the economics of international development.

“I now want to think more about the big picture,” she says. “How do countries develop? Why do countries develop? If you want to make policy for development, you need this kind of study.”
President Michael F. Adams escorts Rhodes Scholars Deep Shah (right), a UGA senior, and Kate Vyborny (AB ’05) across campus in December. Shah and Vyborny will enroll in Oxford University this fall. Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
UGA now has had 21 Rhodes Scholars since the awards were first given to Americans in 1904. Vyborny is only UGA’s second female Rhodes recipient. Beth Shapiro was the first, receiving the award in 1999.

“Our success in this area is directly attributable to significant levels of private giving in support of students like Deep and Kate, who indeed could have enrolled anywhere they wanted,” UGA President Michael F. Adams says. “Programs like the Foundation Fellows and the Ramsey Scholars help us in the competition for such students. There has also been a strategic commitment of resources and personnel, primarily in the Honors Program, in support of those students with the potential to be successful in the Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater, Marshall and other scholarship competitions. In some ways, it’s similar to what happens in athletics; the raw talent is there, but the coaching and support are essential to achieving these goals.”

The Rhodes is the oldest international scholarship and is designed to bring outstanding students from around the world to the University of Oxford to study. Candidates are selected based on “excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person, which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead,” according to the Rhodes Scholarship Web site. Students are awarded two years of study, with the possibility of a third year. The scholarship covers all educational costs, living and travel expenses, and may include expenses to travel for research and study.

Kate Vyborny (AB '05) and UGA senior Deep Shah are UGA's 20th and 21st Rhodes Scholars. UGA is the only public university in the countr to have two Rhodes Scholars this year. Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
Both Vyborny and Shah excelled in academics at Georgia, and in addition engaged in activities that demonstrate the “qualities of person” that the Rhodes committee seeks in identifying its scholars.

As a sophomore, Shah co-founded Roosevelt @ UGA, a chapter of the Roosevelt Institution, a national network of student-run think tanks. Members of the group research and write policy papers on national issues, as well as concerns to the Athens community. They present their papers at a policy symposium in the spring. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson attended the 2007 symposium to hear the students’ presentations.

Roosevelt provides UGA students an avenue to engage in public service, Shah says, by studying the policies that affect the areas they are interested in—including poverty, health care and education.

“Athens itself has so many policy challenges,” Shah says. “I believe we can impact those in a meaningful way.”

Vyborny became very involved in UGA’s chapter of Amnesty International, organizing events and publicity for the Athens chapter, which had not been very active in recent years. The experience, she says, helped develop her leadership skills.

“I was not a natural leader at all,” she says. “ I learned by my mistakes. I became quite good at it by the end.”

The students credit their international opportunities with helping them grow as students and people, building on their academic experience on campus. Vyborny’s interest in international development began in a UGA geography course and grew during her travels as an undergraduate to Ecuador, China and Croatia. She returned to Ecuador as a program assistant with the Foundation for Sustainable Development.

Both also agree it was the personal attention that drew them to UGA over the private schools they were considering.

“Every professor knew a little about me and wanted to learn more,” Shah says of his recruitment trip to UGA. “Every student I met was working with top faculty. That was something that really stuck out in my mind and impressed me.”

UGA Honors:
Rhodes Scholarship:

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