Award-winning students make us all proud

When I came to Wisconsin, I knew this was a place with first-rate students, but I have to say that the number of accolades our students received this academic year was larger than I expected. UW is truly an academically elite university.

Just how elite? The University of Wisconsin–Madison is one of only four American institutions (including Harvard, Princeton and the Georgia Institute of Technology) that can boast Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholars in the same year.

We’ve spent a lot of time cheering our athletic teams for their achievements, and I want to take a few moments to recognize students whose academic success has been exceptional. I am honored to be part of a celebration for these students in a ceremony on May 5.

Every Wisconsin resident should be proud of these achievements because all of the students honored with these prestigious awards hail from the Dairy State. This is clear proof that milk and cheese make you smart.

Senior Drew Birrenkott was awarded a 2014 Rhodes Scholarship, one of the top honors in higher education. He joins an elite group of 32 students from across the nation. Drew, of McFarland, is triple-majoring in political science, biochemistry and biomedical engineering.

Senior Andrew Bulovsky of Lodi won a Marshall Scholarship and will attend the London School of Economics next October. Andrew is one of 34 students nationally to receive the scholarship, which funds up to three years of study at a British university. He’s majoring in political science and communication arts.

Joshua Shutter, a senior majoring in chemistry, is one of only 14 American scholars selected as 2014 recipients of the Churchill Scholarship. Joshua will complete a one-year Master of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge while residing at Churchill College. Joshua, originally from Green Bay, received a competitive Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship in 2012, and on the national level was named a Goldwater Scholar in 2013.

Brontë Mansfield, from Clinton, is one of 20 juniors nationwide this year to be selected for the Beinecke Scholarship. Brontë, a junior double-majoring in art history and English, hopes to study at either Yale University, home to the Yale Center for British Art, or the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London.

Junior Colin Higgins was selected as a 2014 Udall Scholar, one of just 50 students so honored nationwide. Colin, from Middleton, is triple-majoring in geography, history and environmental studies and plans to embark on an academic career, pursuing research at the intersection of ecology, public policy and economic justice.

In addition, four of our undergraduatesAnna-Lisa Doebley, a junior majoring in genetics from Middleton, Rachel Dvorak, a junior majoring in biochemistry from Rice Lake, Geoffrey McConohy, a junior majoring in engineering physics from Menomonie, and Tong Wang, a junior majoring in chemistry from New Berlin — received Barry M. Goldwater scholarships. Each year, American universities may nominate only four undergrads for the Goldwater, and it is a distinct honor that all four of our nominees were selected among 300 sophomores and juniors nationwide.

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who spoke on this campus two years ago, shared the following thought that I think bears repeating. He said:

“The most successful people recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday; and along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

To this group of top students: I can’t wait to see what you do to make this world a better place — to lessen suffering and to continue to learn and to ask questions and to seek answers to important questions.

You embody the spirit of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. We are very proud of you.