NMSU students named Rhodes Scholarship finalists

November 17, 2010 by Leah Messina, NMSU News Center

Eric Layer, a senior economics major, is one of two Rhodes Scholarship finalists at New Mexico State University. This is the first time in NMSU’s history that two students have been named finalists in the same year. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

For the first time ever, two students from New Mexico State University have been named finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships in the same year. Kellie Jurado, a senior in biology interested in cancer research, and Eric Layer, a senior in economics interested in politics and public policy, applied for the scholarship along with more than 1,500 students across the country and have made it to the final round. Winners will be announced Nov. 20.

“Kellie Jurado and Eric Layer are extraordinary students who have represented NMSU with distinction in this competition,” said Tracey Miller-Tomlinson, associate dean of the Honors College at NMSU and director of the Office of National Scholarship. “Their success reflects well on their dedicated instructors and mentors, as well as on the university as a whole.”

This would not be the first time either student has received a selective scholarship. Layer won a Truman Scholarship this spring, which is given to college juniors who show leadership potential in government or public sector service, while Jurado won a Goldwater Scholarship in 2009, which is given to students pursuing the sciences.

“Being named a Rhodes Scholar will be an ideal jumpstart to my career as a scientific researcher because it will provide me with an ideal graduate opportunity decorated with unsurpassed education, innovative research training and international experience,” Jurado said.

The last time a student from NMSU won was in 1933, though there have been more recent finalists — Marzyeh Ghassemi in 2007 and Mohammad Ghassemi in 2009. Both went on to win other prominent awards. Marzyeh Ghassemi won the Marshall Scholarship in 2007 and Mohammad Ghassemi won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship for 2010.

“It is exceptionally rare for any university to have two accomplished students receive this recognition in a single year. The naming of Kellie and Eric as Rhodes finalists brings due recognition to NMSU as an institution where students receive a world-class education,” Miller-Tomlinson said.

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowships, dating back to 1902. Each year, it sends 32 outstanding students from the United States to complete their graduate studies at the University of Oxford in England, paying all expenses plus a generous stipend. The award package is estimated to be $50,000 per year for students completing a two or three year graduate program, and up to as much as $175,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years. As of 2009, 3,196 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 310 colleges and universities. Women have been eligible to apply since 1976.

“Regardless of the outcome this week, I will strive to lead a life that reflects positively upon all those who have invested so much in me,” Layer said.

For more information about the Rhodes Scholarships process at NMSU or this year’s finalists, contact Miller-Tomlinson, at tomlin@nmsu.edu or 646-2213.

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