University of Pittsburgh
November 21, 2009

Pitt 2008 Truman Scholar Eleanor Ott Named 2010 Rhodes Scholar

Pitt is the only public institution in Pennsylvania with a 2010 Rhodes Scholar Three of Pitt's six Rhodes Scholarships have been won since 2006
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PITTSBURGH-Eleanor Ott, a University of Pittsburgh Honors College graduate who received a BA degree in history and French and a BS degree in chemistry from Pitt in April 2009, has been named a 2010 Rhodes Scholarship winner. Pitt is the only public institution in Pennsylvania with a 2010 Rhodes Scholar; Swarthmore College is the only other institution in the state with a 2010 Rhodes Scholarship winner.

Ott is the sixth Pitt undergraduate-degree recipient to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. A former Pitt Chancellor's Scholar and Lawrence, Kan., native, Ott was a 2008 Truman Scholarship winner. Ott's interests are in human rights, refugee issues, and evidence-based policy. At the University of Oxford, she will study forced migration and evidence-based social intervention, refugee and migration studies, and social science research methods.

Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest of the international study awards available to U.S. students, provide two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

"My first opportunity to meet with Eleanor Ott to discuss her work in chemistry, history, and French occurred in 2008, when she was the only student from a Pennsylvania public university to be named a Truman Scholar," said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "Ellie's exemplary record as an outstanding Pitt student and a highly effective leader made her the ideal candidate for that prestigious honor. Her selection as a Rhodes Scholar is further testament to her distinguished record of academic excellence, overall high achievement, and wide-ranging humanitarian commitment."

"At the very beginning of her undergraduate career, Eleanor Ott stood out," said Alec Stewart, Honors College dean. "Her decision to pursue graduate work at Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre is indicative of what she values: knowledge that she can provide a glimmer of hope in the perplexingly catastrophic lives of refugees. Through her personal journey, she has taught us that, for her, change through empowerment takes heart, stamina, and ability to lead on an international level. It is remarkable what this young lady from Pitt is achieving."

After graduating from Pitt in April, Ott, a Truman-Albright Fellow, took a position as a social science research analyst in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Administration for Children and Families. Her tasks include oversight of projects on teenage pregnancy prevention and in the Couples Together Against Violence program, collaboration with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and improvement of dissemination and implementation strategies within the Administration for Children and Families.

While at Pitt, Ott was copresident and education chair for FORGEPitt (Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Empowerment), a refugee advocacy organization that she helped found in 2005. In cooperation with this organization and Catholic Charities, Ott was instrumental in assisting local refugees obtain clothing and in starting a mentoring program, in which Pitt students work one-on-one with refugees.

In addition to pursuing work with refugees, Ott worked with youth in local schools. She was an aide for the English as a Second Language class at Schenley High School and mentored at-risk elementary and middle school students with the Beginning With Books and First Step After School programs.

Ott continues her work as a mentor and tutor with Somali, Burundi, and Senegal refugee families.

Ott's dream is to one day become UN High Commissioner for Refugees. More practically, her plan is to work in the U.S. government, developing and overseeing social policy based on evidence, ideally with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. She hopes to one day be appointed to a position in which she would collaborate with other countries and the United Nations.

Among Ott's many honors was being named last March by "Pitt" magazine as one of 12 University of Pittsburgh Phenomenal Women, the only undergraduate chosen for this distinction; a 2008 Phi Beta Kappa Junior Scholarship winner, presented annually to one or two Pitt juniors a year; and a 2006 Averill Scholarship, given each year to the top three sophomore Pitt chemistry majors.

This year's Rhodes U.S. winners-32 students from 23 institutions of higher learning-came from a pool of 216 interviewees from 97 colleges and universities. Those chosen will enter the University of Oxford next October.

Rhodes Scholarships are the legacy of British colonial pioneer, statesman, and philanthropist Cecil J. Rhodes, who died in 1902. Although intellectual distinction is a necessary requirement for selection as a Rhodes Scholar, it is not sufficient. The selection process seeks excellence in qualities of mind and of person, which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. Thus, winners are chosen on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential, and physical vigor, among other attributes.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending upon the academic field, the degree (bachelor's, master's, doctoral), and the Oxford college chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence at Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England.

Pitt's other five Rhodes Scholars are David Frederick (A&S '83), 1983; Donna Roberts (A&S '85), 1987; Nathan Urban (A&S '91, '96G, '98G), 1991; Justin Chalker (A&S '06), 2006; and Daniel Armanios (A&S '07, ENGR '07), 2007.