Two UW–Madison students finalists for Rhodes, Marshall scholarships

November 25, 2014 By Susannah Brooks

Two University of Wisconsin–Madison seniors made the final round of consideration for two of the top awards in education.

Neil Damron, a political science and economics major from Syracuse, New York, was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Photo: Neil Damron

Neil Damron

Rachel Dvorak, a biochemistry major from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, was a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship.

Though neither student was ultimately offered a scholarship, they have already made an impact on the UW–Madison community.

“The achievements of these two students exemplify the dedication of UW–Madison students to solving problems on campus and throughout the world,” says Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf. “I know that Neil and Rachel will continue to be excellent ambassadors for the Wisconsin Idea.”

Photo: Rachel Dvorak

Rachel Dvorak

Damron plans to continue his study of policy in order to make public policy himself, using his position to help facilitate social change, mitigate poverty and increase opportunities for upward economic mobility in the United States. He has served as president of the Wisconsin Union and director of the Distinguished Lecture Series, and spearheaded such projects as the Memorial Union Reinvestment Project and the Wisconsin Experience Bus Trip.

Dvorak hopes to receive a doctorate in neuroscience, as well as a medical degree, in order to conduct research in neurology. She aims to develop treatments and prevention methods for dementia-related diseases and disorders. She is president of the UW–Madison Campus Lions Club and serves as a peer tutor in several subjects — an unusual amount of extracurricular activity for someone who has already begun a demanding research career.

“I have the opportunity to work with many accomplished and highly motivated students, and Neil and Rachel are truly inspirational.”

Julie Stubbs

Both Damron and Dvorak have already contributed to emerging scholarship in their areas. Damron is a poverty analysis intern for the Institute for Research on Poverty through the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Dvorak conducts research in the lab of biochemistry professor Michael Cox, studying and optimizing a potential genome editing system.

“I have the opportunity to work with many accomplished and highly motivated students, and Neil and Rachel are truly inspirational,” says Julie Stubbs, director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Awards, who assisted both students through the application process. “I’m hopeful that, under their emerging leadership, we’ll make progress on the kinds of pressing social problems that they’ve already begun to address.”