PHILADELPHIA - A University of Pennsylvania student who organized an exhibit about Lenape Indians living quietly in the state is among this year's winners of Rhodes Scholarships.
Abigail P. Seldin, of Tierra Verde, Fla., curated the exhibit "Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania," which opened at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in September.
She is one of 32 men and women from across the United States to win the prestigious scholarships for study at England's Oxford University. The winners' names were announced early Sunday.
Seldin, a Penn anthropology student, said she admired the survival of cultural traditions despite the difficulty involved in maintaining them in secret.
History books say the Lenape tribe left Pennsylvania by 1803, she said, but there were some who stayed behind, intermarrying with whites but quietly continuing their indigenous ways through the generations.
Among the other Rhodes winners is a college football star, Florida State University safety Myron Rolle, who had to miss part of Saturday's game against Maryland because he was being interviewed for the scholarship.
Rolle is a pre-med student and hopes to become a neurosurgeon. "It was a very exciting day, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to study at Oxford," Rolle said after arriving in College Park, Md., to play in the second half of the game.
This year's 32 Rhodes Scholars were picked from 769 applicants endorsed by 207 colleges and universities nationwide.
The scholarships, the oldest of the international study awards available to American students, provide two or three years of study. The students will enter Oxford University in England next October.
Anna Yermakova, a Northwestern University biochemistry major, plans to use her scholarship to complete a doctorate in mathematical biology.
She spoke little English when she and her family moved to the Chicago area from Russia in 1997. She recalled that when she first applied for the Rhodes scholarship, "I didn't really understand how big of a deal it was."
"I never really had this 'I must prove myself as a Russian immigrant' attitude," she said. "It was just working hard and doing everything that my brain can do and my hands can do, and I still have a lot of work to do — this is just a step."
David L.V. Bauer, a student at the City College of New York, is looking forward to doing research at Oxford to develop faster, cheaper ways of sequencing genomes so the technology can become available to everyone.
Such an advance could allow more people to take preventive measures against ailments they are particularly susceptible to.
"It's when I can see what you can do with it, how it can change people's lives and change how we are able to interact with our world in a better way that it really becomes interesting," the 21-year-old Manhattan native said.
Rhodes winner Malorie Snider, a senior at Harvard, said she plans to study medical anthropology at Oxford, delving into an interest that has been growing during her undergraduate studies.
Winning the scholarship, she said Sunday while visiting family in Texas, is "kind of a blur, actually. It's a combination of excitement, feeling overwhelmed, not comprehending what's going on, and thinking about all these possibilities that have suddenly opened up to me."