Truman, Goldwater, and Marshall Scholars

March 29, 2006 | The University

For the second year consecutive year, CUNY undergraduates have been awarded prestigious Truman and Goldwater Scholarships, while a CUNY graduate student has been named a select Marshall Scholar. The award announcements come as four CUNY campuses – Baruch College, Brooklyn College, Queens College and Hunter College – have been ranked among the nation’s “best value” higher-educational institutions for 2007 by The Princeton Review.

“CUNY students are once again competing successfully for the most prestigious awards at the highest levels of academic achievement,” said Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. “This is a tribute to the students and their families, our dedicated faculty, and the reforms implemented at CUNY over the past several years.”

Marshall Scholar Julia Rafal, a special education elementary schoolteacher in the Bronx, will complete her master’s degree in special education and in childhood education at Lehman College this summer and begin her studies in the fall at the University of Cambridge, England.

Truman Scholarship winner Ryan Merola, a junior at Brooklyn College and a student in CUNY’s Honors College, follows in the footsteps of his close friend and last year’s winner, Charles Claudio Simpkins of City College — who was recently accepted to Harvard Law School for the fall.

And Rachel Schnur, a junior in Queens College’s honors program in mathematics and natural sciences, has received the Goldwater Scholarship, whose 2005 winner, Philipa Njau, will graduate from City College in 2007.

The Marshall Scholarships, which began in 1953 as a gesture of thanks from the British government for U.S. help in rebuilding Europe after World War II, are awarded to 40 scholars each year who are selected to spend two years in graduate school at a British university, all expenses paid. Past recipients include Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The Truman Scholarships, which provide $30,000 for graduate study, are awarded to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or other types of public service.

The Goldwater Scholarship program, which honors Arizona Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, gives awards to outstanding math, science and engineering students. Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 per year.

Goldwater Scholars often go on to win other prestigious post-graduate fellowships, including Rhodes Scholarships and Marshall Scholarships.

CUNY’s three latest scholarship winners are looking forward to continuing their educations.

Rafal, who teaches fifth- and sixth-graders at P.S. 246, graduated summa cum laude and Phil Beta Kappa from The George Washington University in May 2004 with a B.A. in psychology and sociology. She will pursue her doctorate in education at Cambridge University, where her research will focus on inclusive and comparative education.

She attributes much of her success in the classroom to what she has learned at Lehman, which has inspired her to strive to open the first all-inclusive charter school in the Bronx. “Being a special-education teacher in the Bronx opened my eyes to an entirely different way of life,” says Rafal, who grew up in New Jersey. “I had no idea what it meant to be culturally diverse until I started teaching at my school. I have ties here now, from working for two years and going to school. I really identify with this community, and that is why I plan to open that charter school – so I can give back to the children and their families.”

Merola says that his scholarship will get him closer to his ultimate goal of becoming a Kings County assistant district attorney. Merola, who is pursuing a double major in political science and philosophy and plans to go to graduate school and law school, has an avid interest in public service. In addition to being a vice chair for fiscal affairs of the University Student Senate, he has been an intern for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a staff member of Rep. Edolphus Towns and is active in Brooklyn’s Independent Neighborhood Democrats.

Simpkins, last year’s Truman Scholarship winner, will be attending Harvard Law School in the fall. He volunteers with Impact Coalition, an organization which sponsors debate teams in underprivileged high schools, and Youth Explosion Ministries, an organization which targets at risk urban youth through religious and social programs.

Goldwater Scholarship winner Schnur, who is majoring in biology, wants to earn a doctorate in molecular biology/genetics so she can do cancer research and teach at a university. The Hillcrest, Queens resident graduated from a yeshiva before attending Queens College, where her mother and grandmother also graduated.

She conducts research at Queens College with Professor Timothy Short, whose work relates to the way plants sense and respond to their environment. “I’m in the lab all day long, and I love it,” Schnur says.

2005 Goldwater Scholarship winner Njau, a City College honors student majoring in biology and biochemistry, wants to earn a doctorate so she can teach and become a research scientist in the biophysical and biochemical fields.

The Princeton Review’s annual “best value” college guide included the four CUNY colleges in a group of 150 colleges nationwide. The colleges were selected from institutional data and student opinion surveys measuring academics, financial aid packages, and tuition costs.

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university: eleven senior colleges, six community colleges, the CUNY Honors College, the Graduate School and University Center, the Graduate School of Journalism, the Law School and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. The University serves more than 220,000 degree-credit students and 230,000 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 200 high schools throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York. In 2006, the University is launching an on-line baccalaureate degree through the School of Professional Studies and a new Teacher Academy offering free tuition for highly motivated mathematics and science majors who seek teaching careers in the city’s public schools.