January 22, 2003

Two C.U. Students Win Rhodes Scholarships

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Two Cornell students, Brian Finucane ’03 and Somjen Frazer ’03, were recently awarded Rhodes scholarships. The award, which fully funds the pursuit of a graduate degree at Oxford University in England, was awarded to 32 of the 981 American undergraduates who applied.

Finucane, who will graduate in May with a B.A. in anthropology and archaeology, has studied abroad in Italy, the Balkans, Newfoundland and Peru. His research on Peruvian mummies was featured on the National Geographic television program The Mummy Road Show.


When he is not in the classroom or uncovering mummies, Finucane is a volunteer firefighter with the Ithaca Fire Department’s Company No. 9 and a certified EMT. Finucane’s concern for the health of others has been a driving force in his interest in forensic paleopathology.

Finucane will pursue a doctorate in archaeology at Oxford and then possibly attend medical school, where he can further his study of human pathology.

After researching the criteria on which Rhodes judges choose the scholars, he realized that he would make a qualified applicant. Impressed with what he described as the selection committee’s policy on “evaluating the entire person,” he decided to apply. Finucane said the Rhodes scholarship seemed like “an excellent opportunity to pursue academic research.”

Before receiving the scholarship, Finucane was also honored with a Harry Caplan Travel Fellowship, a College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Grant and many other awards recognizing his achievements in anthropology.

Frazer credits the research opportunities available at Cornell with a large role in the path that led to the Rhodes scholarship.

In her time at Cornell, she has authored or co-authored seven academic papers and journal articles on a wide range of topics, including women’s health, student drinking and comparative perceptions of drug users across cultures.

Prof. Shelly Campo ’90, community and behavioral health, University of Iowa, who served as Frazer’s mentor in the Bartels Participatory Action Research Fellows program, has worked with the scholar on many projects and papers. Campo said that she is glad the Rhodes judges recognized Frazer’s “ability to make a contribution to academic scholarship and to better communities through applied and participatory research.”

Frazer, who recently presented a paper about issues faced by minority women seeking on-campus health care to the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, says her research fills a void in the field.

“There was an expressed need by women at Cornell to have a comprehensive needs assessment for health care resulting in interventions to improve their quality of care,” Frazer explained.

Frazer will pursue a master’s degree in sociology at Oxford. She hopes to someday become a professor while continuing to research sexually and racially marginalized social groups.

Finucane and Frazer underwent an exhaustive three-step process in order to receive the highly esteemed scholarship. After being endorsed by Cornell, they went on to compete against other students from their home states and districts, taking part in intensive interviews with former Rhodes scholars. The members of Cornell’s endorsement committee, including former Rhodes scholars Prof. James E. Adams, English, and Prof. Reeve Parker, English, advised the students as they joined the ranks of former President Bill Clinton, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning scientists and world-renowned academics.

Archived article by Melissa Korn