U of G Student Wins Rhodes Scholarship

December 03, 2007 - News Release

Kate Smolina, a fourth-year biomedical sciences student at the University of Guelph, has won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in global health science at the University of Oxford.

Students from about 20 countries compete annually for 90 Rhodes Scholarships, which are worth about $35,000 per year and cover tuition, fees and a living allowance.

“This is literally a dream come true," said Smolina. "There are no words to express the gratitude, the excitement and the honour that I feel. I will do my very best to be a great ambassador for the University of Guelph as well as for Canada.”

Smolina attributes her drive for excellence to the hard work of her parents, who decided to immigrate to Canada from Russia nine years so that she and her sister could have a better life.

"I had to fight to justify my parents' sacrifice, to prove that they had not come for nothing. I was given an opportunity to change my life for the better, and I was determined to use it."

President Alastair Summerlee, who is also a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, has high words of praise for Smolina.

"Kate is an exceptionally rare student in terms of her intellectual ability, passion for learning, unrelenting determination and genuine deep desire to help others by improving the world we live in," he said. "She has the talent, the drive and the winning personality to succeed wherever she goes in life."

Smolina won the Lionel Bradley Pett Scholarship for the highest average in third-year biomedical sciences and has the top average this year as well.

A U of G President's Scholar, she also received a Loran Award (formerly the Canadian Merit National Scholarship) when she graduated from high school. The award is given annually to up to 30 Canadians for academic excellence, leadership skills, community involvement and character.

In addition to her academic achievements, Smolina is dedicated to volunteering, particularly in areas related to health care, peace building and international development.

She is vice-president of YOUCAN, a national youth organization that promotes peaceful conflict resolution and violence prevention in Canada and internationally. She started a Duke of Edinburgh's Award Club at the University in 2004 to encourage more students to participate in the program. She also served on the 21st Century Committee created to develop practical ways to enhance the learning experience of undergraduate students.

She has also travelled to India and Costa Rica, where she helped communities with construction, farm work, teaching English and volunteering in rural hospitals.

Smolina hopes her graduate work at Oxford will lead to research in epidemiology of infectious diseases, an interest sparked by her travels to developing countries. Her long-term career goal is to work for the World Health Organization and take a leadership role in bridging the fields of medicine, epidemiology and public health to control infectious diseases in the developing world.

Created in 1902 and named for Cecil Rhodes, the scholarships recognize "high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential leadership and physical vigour."

Past recipients have included country presidents, Supreme Court justices, poets, writers, scholars, politicians, Olympic athletes and Nobel Peace Prize winners. Among them are former Canadian governor general Roland Michener, astronomer Edwin Hubble, Fulbright Fellowship founder J. William Fulbright, actor Kris Kristofferson, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, feminist social critic Naomi Wolf, Canadian commentator Rex Murphy, and former Ontario premier Bob Rae.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982, d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca

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