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UNR student named Marshall Scholar

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The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded to undergraduates seeking to pursue postgraduate degrees. For the first time in the scholarship’s 58-year history, a University of Nevada, Reno student, Max Alderman, has been chosen as a Marshall Scholar.

Similar to the Rhodes Scholarship, only 40 or fewer Marshall Scholars are named each year, and with the distinction comes a full-ride, two-year scholarship at any United Kingdom university. Former Marshall Scholars have included Pulitzer Prize winners, ambassadors, governors, congressmen, attorney generals, supreme court justices, university presidents and top scientists. Reid Hoffman, founder of the business social network, LinkedIn, was also a Marshall Scholar. Any University of Nevada, Reno student wanting to apply for a Marshall Scholarship must go through the University’s Office of Undergraduate Fellowships and be nominated by the University.

The 2012 Marshall Scholars include Alderman and 35 other top national scholars, including several graduates from Ivy League schools such as Princeton, Harvard and Yale. Alderman, who will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Liberal Arts Dec. 10, is no stranger to the national spotlight. He earned the title of the top collegiate debater in the country in March when he was named the Top Individual Speaker at the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s Championship Tournament, beating out 306 other top collegiate debaters.

Alderman has a 3.93 grade-point average and is known for his caring personality and sense of humor. His debate coach Phil Sharp, who dubbed him “the Lady Gaga” of debate, said, “Max’s friendly nature and concern for the silenced in our world has endeared him to many, while his humor and personality have won over even the most cynical of people.”

Capturing the Marshall Scholarship, however, didn’t come easy to Alderman. He has been working on the application process since spring, with the help of mentor Vipin Gupta, an adjunct faculty member in the University’s Honors Program who was also a Marshall Scholar. When Gupta was bestowed the honor, he promised his mentor that he would help other students who wanted to pursue top international scholarships. So, he taught a course to a select group of honors students last spring, giving them tips on applying for the scholarships. After the course ended, he continued to work with Alderman.

“He really put his mind and heart into the course,” Gupta said. “He made some mistakes, but he learned from them. I could see how serious he was about pursuing it and the effort he was willing to put into it, so I offered to continue to work with him.”

Alderman completed three essays required for the application – a personal statement, an academic statement and a statement about why he would like to live in the United Kingdom. Based on the essays and four letters of recommendation he was required to submit, he was invited for a personal interview in San Francisco, Nov. 8-9. He had been preparing for the possibility of an interview for several weeks, with the help of Gupta and other faculty from across campus. On Nov. 10, he learned he would be among those announced in December as a 2012 Marshall Scholar. Alderman chose to pursue his master’s in philosophy at the University of Warwick in Coventry, about an hour northwest of London, because he says it has one of the best philosophy programs in the world.

“I’m really excited,” Alderman said. “I studied in London in fall 2009, through USAC [University Studies Abroad Consortium], and loved it. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and was really a defining experience for me. I found out what I wanted to do and I really wanted to go back there and study again.”

Alderman said he especially liked the approach to study in the United Kingdom, which usually involves assigned readings, some one-on-one discussions with your professor, and then a couple of major writing assignments.

“You get to explore bigger ideas with less busy work,” he explained. “But you have to be a pretty self-motivated person, or it’s not going to work. It’s worked really well for me though.”

Gupta agrees that self-motivation isn’t a problem for Alderman, commenting, “Max puts his mind and his heart into a few key areas he loves. He is also an exceptional listener. He can play back what he hears and he absorbs it. That skill demonstrates true leadership ability.”

Alderman is already making plans for after he completes his two years of study at Warwick. He is applying at top law schools and has already been accepted by Georgetown and Cornell. His success doesn’t surprise his advisor in the philosophy department, Deborah Achtenberg, the department chair.

“Max is a brilliant student with a rare combination of brilliance and humility,” she said. “He has a genuine concern for others. He has a liveliness and sense of play that are very engaging. It’s exciting for us that he is the University’s first Marshall Scholar – we are very happy for him.”

Robert Ostergard, associate professor and Alderman’s advisor in the political science department, agrees.

“Max’s academic accomplishments and personal character are why I think he is the best all-around student I have had the privilege of knowing and the pleasure of having study under me,” he said. “He volunteered countless hours mentoring debate students at local high schools, and I think his leadership and volunteer work in debate was, for him, just part of who he is — someone who sees good things in himself, but sees great potential in others.”

Alderman was a 2007 Reno High School graduate and a National Merit Scholar. He was also awarded a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department in a highly competitive process similar to the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which earned him the opportunity to spend two months in Korea last summer in an intense program to learn the language.

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of 18,000 students and is ranked in the top tier of the nation’s best universities. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University has the system’s largest research program and is home to the state’s medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and with one of the nation’s largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.

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