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The Making of a Rhodes Scholar – Duke University Graduate Earns Coveted Award

Parker Goyer has certainly tasted her share of success even if she is just 23-years-old.

Following her graduation from Duke, Goyer received a fellowship from the Robertson Scholars Program, a merit scholarship program that seeks to encourage social entrepreneurship and to increase collaboration between Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Goyer was the only non-Robertson Scholar to be selected for the one year fellowship.

That same year, the 2007 graduate would go on to see her benchmark concept, the Coach for College Program, come to fruition. Securing nearly half-a-million dollars in funding, Goyer led a group of college student-athletes to Vietnam to deliver the first ever edition of the program to 200 middle school-aged children.

Yet, when it comes to recognition for a job well-done, the first-year student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education recently hit new heights even for her. On Saturday, November 22nd, the Coach for College founder learned she was one of 32 American students chosen to receive a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Special Moment
The selection for what is arguably “the most famous academic award available to American college graduates” was something the native of Birmingham, Ala., truly coveted. She had been selected a finalist last year but had not been chosen to be one of the final 32 students to receive a scholarship that averages upwards of $50,000 per year of study.

“I’ve known about the Rhodes for a long time,” she acknowledges. “I’m not actually sure when I first heard about it but I do remember my mom telling me about the biographies of some of the winners when I was younger.”

When the former Division I student-athlete began reading more about the scholarship program, she discovered that the four characteristics of prior Rhodes recipients, academic achievement,
service to others, leadership, and physical vigor, were all characteristics she sought for herself.

“They were ideals that I wanted to strive for, regardless of whether they were associated with a scholarship or not,” explains Goyer. “I felt that doing so would ultimately position me to make the greatest impact on the world.”

A Young Lady of Numerous Accomplishments
Though most well-known for her unique service program, Coach for College, the path to the Rhodes reveals a lengthy list of academic accomplishments. After all, one is not chosen from among 769 deserving applicants from more than 200 colleges and universities throughout the country for a Rhodes without having exceptional academic credentials.

Goyer was a repeat member of the Dean’s List with Distinction while at Duke and graduated Summa Cum Laude. During her undergraduate years, Goyer was also an Honorable Mention/Finalist for the Faculty Scholar Award and received the Karl E. Zener Award for Outstanding Performance of an Undergraduate Major in Psychology.

In addition to her being named a Robertson Fellow, the newly-selected Rhodes Scholar received the Carolina Panthers/Foundation for the Carolinas merit scholarship as a senior at Duke for graduate study and has already earned the Harvard Graduate School of Education Leadership in Education Award as well as the Ivy League school’s highest academic honor, a Presidential Scholarship .

Graduating with a degree in Psychology with a Concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Physics, Goyer can also list a number of research experiences and publications. They include being chosen for a Neuroscience 2007 Press Book submission abstract; multiple submissions to Duke University publications (“The Duke Mind” and the Duke Center for International Studies Newsletter); a featured article in the Journal of Prospective Health Care; and a collaborative publication in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Duke Role Models

When it came to role models for the prestigious award, the 23-year-old certainly could point to a number of fellow Duke graduates. The school has produced 41 prior winners including 21 in the last 15 years. Several had a key impact on Goyer.

“Over the last two years I have been fortunate to interact directly with a number of Rhodes Scholars,” she states. As for direct role models, she pointed to John Tye, the co-founder of the service-learning organization LEAPS, Eric Greitens, a Navy Seal and White House Fellow, Billy Hwang, the founder of the non-profit Innoworks, and Pooja Kumar, who was selected for the Rhodes as a second year student at Harvard Medical School.

Their influence on Goyer was profound.

“I had read and heard about many of the past Rhodes winners from Duke and they seemed like very nice, thoughtful, and interesting people. One whom I met last fall spoke of the lifelong friendships the Rhodes community provides. His glowing account of the experience he had with his fellow Rhodes Scholars at Oxford made me eager to want to join their ranks so that I too could cultivate such relationships.”

Recognition for Division I Student Athletes
While much has been made in recent years of the less than stellar graduation rates for Division I athletes at some institutions, Goyer’s selection was proof-positive that there is more to the story than the more publicized results. In fact, the former Duke tennis player was joined by Florida State football player Myron Rolle as 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference athletes to be selected to study at Oxford.

Myron Rolle and Parker GoyerEver-mindful that the scholarship represents opportunity as much as it does recognition, Goyer said she hopes to utilize the Oxford experience to further develop the Coach for College program. She hopes to develop the program into a truly global initiative, expanding it to other countries while incorporating other American universities into the mix.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Oxford was to study comparative international education to learn more about the different education systems, academic curricula, personnel of the different countries so I could see which ones would be a good fit for the Coach for College program.”

While still looking forward, the driven young lady did pause, if only for a brief moment, to reflect on her accomplishment.

“I just feel so lucky, and thrilled to now have the opportunity to study at Oxford. This is definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.”

Photo of Mryon Rolle and Parker Goyer courtesy of Amy M. Stone.

1 comment

1 Kate { 12.04.08 at 7:46 am }

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