Penn student, Harvard senior from Philadelphia, Princeton senior among Rhodes Scholars

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Sunday, November 22, 2015
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PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A University of Pennsylvania senior and a Harvard senior from Philadelphia are among those selected as Rhodes Scholars to pursue post-graduate studies at Oxford University.

Jennifer Hebert of Pittsburgh, a University of Pennsylvania senior, is a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team who competed in the Under-23 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria. She has studied the mechanisms underlying memory and is now examining the effects of nicotine exposure or stress on neural circuitry.

Rivka Hyland of Philadelphia is a Harvard senior majoring in Islamic studies who is interested in the common intellectual heritage of medieval Islamic and Christian theologians. She has "advanced proficiency" in eight modern and classical languages. Hyland is interested in how medieval philosophy with roots in ancient Greece can shed light on modern attitudes concerning international and intercultural understanding.

Evan Soltas, of Rumson, N.J. is one of four Princeton students who were announced as winners early Sunday by the Rhodes Trust. The 22-year-old economics major, who is working on research related to the federal food stamp program, plans to pursue a degree in applied statistics.

Soltas started blogging on his own as a way to explore and learn economics but soon began working with Ezra Klein on Washingotn Post's Wonkblog. He has also contributed to Klein's and Bloomberg View.

"My long-term aspiration is really to bridge the gap between economics and public policy and really find a way ... to the extent that I can help, do research that helps guide the choices that policy-makers make," Soltas said. "The way I see my role is not so much, 'I think this policy is a good idea, or I think this policy is a bad idea,' but let me help clarify the trade-offs that you face."

He has cut down on his writing as he got more involved in research on the federal SNAP program, seeking to answer the question of whether it's making a meaningful difference. He said his research so far has found that the program works, with the biggest impact coming on those suffering from extreme food insecurity. His goal is to create better measurements of the effect of SNAP on food security.

Soltas' family moved to Rumson from New York City when he was young. He graduated from the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

The Rhodes scholar winners were chosen from 869 applicants who were endorsed by 316 colleges and universities.

The other Princeton winners are Richard Lu, of Ballwin, Missouri, Katherine Clifton, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Cameron Platt, of Santa Barbara, California.

The scholarships cover all expenses for two or three years of study at the prestigious university in England starting next October. The scholarships are worth about $50,000 per year.