Auburn announces nominees for the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships

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Nine Auburn University students are among the nominees for the nation's top postgraduate honors, including the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships. Students awarded these scholarships will pursue their individual fields of study at prestigious universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

"These students evoke the core values of Auburn University," said Melissa Baumann, assistant provost for undergraduate studies and director of the Honors College. "They have succeeded through hard work in their courses and extracurricular activities and they are men and women of character. These scholarships are some of the most prestigious international awards, and we are pleased to nominate them."

Five Auburn University seniors and one recent graduate are nominees for the Rhodes Scholarship, which gives 32 of the most outstanding young scholars in the country an opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. They are Trey Fields, R.J. Martin, Elizabeth Nicholson, Joshua Passantino, Sarah Pitts and James Smith. The scholarship, one of the oldest in the world, is awarded to students with proven intellectual and academic achievement, integrity of character, qualities of leadership and proven respect for their fellow humankind.

Fields, a Birmingham native, is an Honors College senior majoring in political science with a minor in community and civic engagement, all in the College of Liberal Arts. He serves as assistant vice president of student interests and executive vice president of initiatives for the Student Government Association. He has participated in an alternative spring break to Appalachia, joining Mark Wilson's community and civic engagement class; he is an active member of the College Democrats; served as a Camp War Eagle counselor, the freshman orientation program for incoming students; and volunteered in the fall of 2015 as a tutor at the Lee County Youth Development Center. Fields' major professor is Steven Brown in the Department of Political Science.

Martin, a Birmingham native, is an Honors College senior majoring in economics in the College of Liberal Arts. For the past three years, Martin has been an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Economics. In the spring of 2016 he interned with Congressman Mike Rogers and in the summer of 2015 he was a research intern at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. Since his freshman year, he has served as a mentor and volunteer project coordinator at the Auburn Boys and Girls Club. Martin's research mentor is Chris Vickers in the Department of Economics.

Nicholson, a native of Denver, is a spring 2015 graduate in the College of Liberal Arts with a major in political science and minors in hunger studies and Spanish. She is a Teach for America corps member in New York City. While at Auburn she was a founding member of "Living the Creed," a student run, social justice advocacy organization; was active in Campus Kitchens; an Auburn University Global Challenge Fellow; and during her senior year was an instructor with the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project where she taught a weekly course in general political science to incarcerated women. Nicholson's research mentor is Kate Thornton in the College of Human Sciences.

Passantino, a native of Morris, is an Honors College senior with majors in chemical engineering, biosystems engineering and Spanish. A member of the Honors Congress, Passantino was the recipient of the Student Government Association Undergraduate Student Engineering Award in the spring of 2016; was selected as the Biosystems Undergraduate Student of the Year for 2015-16; was a summer 2015 research fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Design; and is a past president of the Auburn chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Passantino's faculty mentor is Virginia Davis in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Pitts, a native of Birmingham, is an Honors College senior double majoring in English Literature and Spanish and minoring in political science, all in the College of Liberal Arts. Pitts has been involved in a number of campus-wide and off-campus service projects. Among her more notable leadership and service achievements include serving as an active member of the Committee of 19, Auburn's student chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger; an active participant in the Blessings in a Backpack school nutrition program; a member of the International Buddy program; a member of the Auburn Flyers Club Cycling Team; and as a volunteer peer-mentor with the Office of Accessibility. Pitts' faculty advisor is James McKelly, associate professor in the Department of English.

Smith, a Huntsville native, is an Honors College senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, with minors in computer science and political science. Smith was awarded a Competitive Undergraduate Research Fellowship; served as a summer research intern at the Naval Research Laboratories; serves as a member of the Auburn Triathlon Club; and is co-founder and past president of Auburn for Water, a student-run organization which raises awareness and funds for small, family well projects in Southeast Asia. Smith's faculty mentor is Michael Baginski in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

"Our students must be endorsed by the university's national prestigious scholarships committee to receive a nomination," said Paul Harris, director of national prestigious scholarships who worked with the students, along with their faculty mentors, to help prepare them for the application process. "As part of their applications, they were required to submit a personal essay and letters of recommendation which highlighted their scholarly potential and their character and suitability for the award."

Smith and Passantino also have been nominated for the Marshall Scholarship, which provides up to 40 of the most outstanding undergraduates in the country an opportunity to study at any university in the United Kingdom. The award focuses on exceptional academic merit and the potential a student may have to be a world leader and ambassador.

Four students have been endorsed by Auburn for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship: Ala Mansour, Michaela Robinson, Blake Willoughby and Nicholson, who also is a Rhodes nominee. The Mitchell Scholarship provides 12 students nationwide the opportunity to study in Ireland. The award criteria focus on scholarship, leadership and commitment to community and public service.

Mansour, a native of Auburn, is a spring 2015 Honors College graduate majoring in health services administration with a minor in business. Mansour recently returned from Trinity College Dublin where she spent the summer as an Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai International Exchange summer research fellow. While at Auburn, Mansour was a German Academic Exchange summer research intern at the Helmholtz Center in Braunschweig; was founder and past president of Justice Africa Sudan on the Auburn campus; and was a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Mansour's research mentor is Satya Pondugula in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Robinson, an Auburn native, is an Honors College senior majoring in architecture in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction. For the past year, she has worked on the college's DESIGNhabitat for Humanity team to design and construct affordable housing. In addition, she has a sustained and active research and outreach agenda working in the college's Rural Studio assisting with the design of the 20K house, a sustainable, cost-efficient home designed and built by students for $20,000. Robinson's faculty mentor is Justin Miller in the College of Architecture Design and Construction.

Willoughby, of Smiths Station, is a spring 2016 graduate in the College of Liberal Arts with a double major in theatre and political science. Currently, Willoughby is pursuing graduate studies in theatre at the University of Missouri. While a student at Auburn, Willoughby served as president of AU Players; as public relations liaison for the Department of Theatre; and as assistant artistic director for Mosaic Theatre Company, a student ensemble which creates works of theatre devised around issues of diversity and social justice. In addition, he served as director, assistant director and actor in numerous plays and performances. His undergraduate faculty mentor is Tessa Carr in the Department of Theatre.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.