Two suburban women have been chosen as Rhodes Scholars, a prestigious honor received by only 32 Americans each year.
Alexis K. Brown of Algonquin and Sarah N. Smierciak of Lemont learned the news last night that they have been invited to spend two to three years at the University of Oxford in England with all expenses covered.
Brown, who is a senior majoring in English and history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the founder and editor-in-chief of a national undergraduate journal of literary criticism. She plans to study English literature at Oxford starting in October 2012 on the scholarship, which is valued at an estimated $50,000.
The two scholars were selected from a poll of 830 students endorsed by 299 colleges and universities across the country on the criteria of high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for other, potential for leadership and physical vigor.
Smierciak graduated from Northwestern University in June with majors in history and in Middle East language and civilization. She lives in Cairo developing a curriculum at a school for orphans and street children. She also serves as a docent on Egyptian art at The Field Museum in Chicago and plans to enroll in development studies at Oxford.
As for the physical vigor criterium, Brown is a figure skating instructor and choreographer when she's not teaching reading and math to low-income children and working as a writing fellow. Smierciak is a triathlete.
The Rhodes Scholarship was created in 1902, and about 80 scholars are selected worldwide each year. There are more than 1,800 American Rhodes Scholars alive today.