Four Princetonians Named Rhodes Scholars

Four Princetonians – Elizabeth Butterworth ’12, Miriam Rosenbaum ’12, Astrid Stuth ’12 and Mohit Agrawal ’11 – were among the 32 American Rhodes Scholarship winners announced today.

Agrawal, a math major and former co-president of Engineers Without Borders, is currently getting his master’s in economic policy evaluation at the National University of Ireland on a Mitchell Scholarship. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in financial economics.

oxfordButterworth, a classics major interested in arts education, will pursue a master’s in comparative and international education. While at Princeton she founded and directed a music program for children of low-income families, and she has worked on excavations in Greece and Italy.

Rosenbaum, a Woody Woo major with minors in African American studies, Judaic studies, and Near Eastern studies, is the president of SHARE Peer Advisors and the Religious Life Council. She is interested in bioethics and healthcare policy and plans to do a master’s in public health.

Stuth, an East Asian studies major who hopes to pursue a career in diplomacy, went to high school in Hong Kong and has represented the US in debate competitions in China in Chinese. She’s also president of the Tigressions and co-founder of a peace conference for U.S. and Iraqi teenagers. Stuth plans to pursue a master’s in international relations.

Check back this week for more on this year’s winners. But did you notice something unusual about the 2012 Rhodes contingent?

Sure, we got more this year than we usually do. Historically, we’ve trailed other Ivy League schools in the number of winners – since 2002, Princeton has claimed 19 to Harvard’s 47 (to be fair, Princeton has a smaller student body). This year, only Stanford topped Princeton, with five, while Harvard and Brown joined us in a three-way-tie for second.

But even more surprising? There were girls! Butterworth, Rosenbaum and Stuth are the first Princeton women to win the Rhodes since 2003. This year’s trio doubled Princeton’s total number of women Rhodes winners over the past 11 years.

President Tilghman said last year that the gender gap was one of the reasons she founded the Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership – particularly after the Rhodes scholarship trust chairman asked her why Princeton had so few female winners.

The timing – Princeton’s biggest-ever class of women winners just one year later – is pretty striking, and not entirely coincidental. Dierdre Moloney, director of fellowship advising, said the jump was “in many ways an outgrowth of the Steering Committee.” The three faculty advisors for Rhodes and Marshall fellowships – Professors Alan Ryan, Melissa Lane and Eric Gregory – were “highly committed to broadening the applicant pool.”

“It was clear this was a priority at Princeton,” Moloney said. “Faculty and other campus mentors, including those who were writing letters in support of applications, were also aware of this lack of representation (as publicized by the report) and encouraged many outstanding women to apply.”

And while the report put a spotlight on the gender gap that may have encouraged more women to apply for fellowships, there were also new mentoring programs with recent Marshall and Rhodes Scholar alumni, graduate students and postdocs aimed at encouraging more students, regardless of gender, to apply for fellowships.

“Mentoring made it much less daunting for potential applicants who could see someone just slightly older than themselves successfully navigate the process,” Moloney said.

Next question: If it worked for the gender gap, think we can get a Steering Committee report to start chipping away at the slightly embarrassing Harvard-Princeton gap?