Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

December 6, 2001

Pitt student named Marshall scholar

Pitt senior Carrie Ann Theisen — a B. Phil. candidate and quadruple major in psychology, linguistics, philosophy and German — has been named as one of 40 Marshall Scholars nationwide for 2002, the British Embassy announced this week.

Theisen is the seventh Pitt student since 1985 to win a Marshall, one of the more competitive and prestigious merit scholarships in the United States. The British Parliament created the scholarships to commemorate the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe following World War II.

During the last 17 years, Pitt students have won more Marshalls and Rhodes scholarships (three) than any other Pennsylvania college or university — and, this week, three Pitt students are interviewing for Rhodes scholarships.

"Simply reaching the interview stage is in and of itself a real accomplishment, given the level of the competition" for Rhodes scholarships, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg told Senate Council on Dec. 3, after announcing Theisen's Marshall scholarship.

Like the Rhodes, the Marshall scholarship emphasizes character as well as intellect. But while a Rhodes restricts study to Oxford University, a Marshall covers all educational costs and provides a stipend for Americans to study for two years at any university in the United Kingdom.

Marshall scholars may pursue graduate studies or a second undergraduate degree. Theisen plans to study cognitive science at the University of Edinburgh, seeking a second undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence and psychology.

"Cognitive science is so new and it includes so many disciplines," said Theisen, of Boyerstown, Pa. "One of those is artificial intelligence. It's something I haven't had the chance to pursue yet, and it's not something you can kind of pick up on the by-and-by because it involves computers and you really need training in it.

"I figure I have the rest of my life to specialize, so for the next two years I'm going to try to broaden my horizons and think about what area of cognitive science most interests me."

That horizon-broadening approach is typical of Theisen, according to Honors College Dean G. Alec Stewart. "Carrie retains exactly those qualities that are prized for the Marshall," he said. "She has scope, drive and a surpassing curiosity that transcends mere intelligence to yield the highest levels of personal attainment."

Theisen said it was Stewart who approached her about applying for a Marshall, when she was a Brackenridge Research Fellow here last summer. "I had heard about Marshalls and Rhodes scholarships," Theisen said, "but I thought they were more about the study of politics, and that's not what I work on."

Theisen said she never would have won a Marshall without help from Honors College personnel and her faculty adviser, Charles Perfetti of psychology and linguistics.

"Everybody at the Honors College was encouraging and extremely helpful. I'm really, really busy and it was hard for me to find the time to complete all of the application requirements," said Theisen.

To mail her application forms by the deadline, Honors College staff had to drive to an airport hotel with a 24-hour post office.

Theisen said Perfetti advised her on research strengths (and personal quirks of some professors) at the various universities she was considering, eventually helping her to choose between the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

"It wasn't that I had a thing about Scotland," Theisen explained. "I do have a little Scottish heritage in me, but I was really going for academics there. During the whole time I was completing my first major in linguistics, we kept hearing about this great research coming out of Edinburgh and Glasgow."

Another attraction of the University of Edinburgh, she said, is the opportunity to study with James Hurford, the world's only computational evolutional linguist.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 8

Leave a Reply