Allegheny senior not selected for Rhodes Scholarship

Sam Stephenson and Meaghan Wilby

Senior Jacqueline Coplen, a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, found out last night, Saturday, Nov. 22, that she did not receive the prestigious fellowship. In a text message to The Campus after her Rhodes Scholarship interview, Coplen,’15, said the interview went well and that she feels she performed as well as she possibly could.

If Coplen had won, she would have been the first Rhodes Scholar recipient Allegheny has ever had.

According to Coplen, there were approximately 10 to 14 other finalists vying for two slots. The Rhodes Scholarship sends a total of 32 Americans every year for a two year fellowship at Oxford University in Oxford, England. Coplen started the application in April and she turned in her final application on Oct. 1. Three weeks later, she found out she was selected as a finalist.

The Rhodes Scholarship has furthered the education of many notable people throughout history including Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, Dean Rusk and multiple nobel prize winners.

Coplen is an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at the University of Edinboro and a political science and Spanish double major at Allegheny. After graduation she plans to attend law school and become a judge advocate general after graduation.

If Coplen had received the Rhodes Scholarship, she would have studied philosophy to tackle questions about “just war” and ethical conduct in war.

“I want to take that education and apply it to a legal education and then apply all of that to my practice of law as an Army lawyer,” Coplen said before the interview. “Which will put me in some ethical conundrums, to say the least. Especially when it comes to issues of rules of engagement, war crimes and something that I’m especially interested in being is a special victims counsel, which is related to military sexual assaults. Beyond that, I see myself having a continued career in public service, but maybe as an elected official. I can’t say for sure, that’s 20 years down the road.”

This past weekend Coplen traveled to Philadelphia for her interview with a panel of previous Rhodes Scholarship winners. The event started on Friday, Nov. 21, with a meet and greet with the other finalists and the panel. Friday evening, there was a cocktail party with a lottery to decide the order of the interviews. Coplen was selected for a 1:15 p.m. interview on Saturday, Nov. 22, one of the last time slots.

In preparation for the interview process, Coplen practiced with Patrick Jackson, Allegheny’s nationally competitive awards adviser and professor of history and religious studies. Coplen said she and Jackson have had long conversations almost every day over the last several weeks to prepare. The interview process is much more than an interview, according to Jackson. The cocktail party is also a large part of the process that needed some preparing outside the preparation for the actual interview.

“We organized a mock experience like that on campus,” Jackson said. “We had a cocktail hour and dinner at President Mullen’s house, followed the next by an early morning interview at eight.”

Approximately 10 faculty and administrators arrived at the president’s house to help Coplen prepare. Four other high achieving students were there to act as other finalists. The mock event started at 6 p.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m., according to Jackson.

The reaction at Allegheny, according to Coplen, has been positive. While she admitted that there was pressure to win, she put the most pressure on herself.

“In general, everyone has been incredibly supportive,” Coplen said. “I know the faculty and the administration are absolutely psyched for me. Which absolutely warms my heart to know that I have that kind of support. But it’s also a little bit of pressure to be honest. It’s a big deal to be potentially Allegheny’s first Rhodes Scholar, it’s the kind of academic accomplishment that would really put Allegheny on the map. As someone, for better or for worse, who really loves this school, it’s a lot of pressure to perform.”

The two winners from district four, the district that encompasses Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, are Kate Nussenbaum from Brown University and Jordan Konell from Yale University, according to the Rhodes Scholarship website.