Columbia College seniors Jason Bello and George Olive won Rhodes scholarships Saturday, snapping a five-year stretch in which Columbia failed to garner the prestigious award. Earlier in the week, Olive and Emma Kaufman, CC '08, won Marshall scholarships.
The Rhodes winners were announced at regional receptions after a day of interviews before selection boards. Olive, of Springfield, Mo., is majoring in economics and earth and environmental sciences. Bello, a Boston native who plans to study political science at Oxford, said that he was impressed by all of the other finalists from his region, which includes Massachusetts and New Jersey.
"I did not think I would win at all," said Bello. "You have to realize, you're there and all of the people are the most amazing people and they've done the most amazing things. Whoever actually gets to go is incredibly arbitrary."
Both scholarships provide funding for two years of graduate study at British university. The UK embassy funds the Marshall, which can be used at any school in the country. The Rhodes, which was founded by business magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1903, sends around 80 students to Oxford University annually, 36 from the U.S. The award is regarded as a mark of prestige not only for the students but also for their schools and Columbia's recent Rhodes drought was regarded by many as a black mark on the school.
This year, Columbia had nine Rhodes finalists and seven Marshall finalists.
"I think the most important thing about any scholarship is that it allows him or her to pursue their educational dreams," Associate Dean of Fellowship Programs Michael Pippenger said of the school's improved showing this year. "It's good for the Columbia community to see that they're competitive."
In his time at Columbia, Bello led Gayava, an organization for LGBT Jews and allies, and launched the Columns, an online forum run by the Columbia Political Union. But he credited his award to Pippenger, now in his second-year at the University.
"Dean Pippenger has exceeded all our expectations," Kathryn Yatrakis, dean of academic affairs for Columbia College, said last year of his success after Paul Sonne, CC '07, won a Marshall scholarship, turning what many had hoped would be a new leaf for Columbia's success with high-profile scholarships.
"The fellowships office is really amazing," Bello said. "The thing is, they really care… They really help you figure out who you are and what you want."