Sample Rhodes Scholarship Personal Statement—Student #1
Soaked in sweat, I sat deep in thought on the small mound of sand and broken rocks in northern Kenya, where 1.7 million years ago a desperately ill Homo erectus woman had died. Her death had entranced me for years. KNM-ER 1808 had died of Hypervitaminosis A, wherein an overdose of Vitamin A causes extensive hemorrhaging throughout the skeleton and excruciating pain. Yet a thick rind of diseased bone all over her skeleton—ossified blood clots—tells that 1808 lived for weeks, even months, immobilized by pain and in the middle of the African bush. As noted in The Wisdom of the Bones, by Walker and Shipman, that means that someone had cared for her, brought her water, food, and kept away predators. At 1.7 million years of age, 1808’s mere pile of bones is a breathtaking, poignant glimpse of how people have struggled with disease over the ages. Since that moment two summers ago, I’ve been fascinated by humans’ relationship with disease. I want to research paleopathology, the study of ancient diseases, in relation to human culture, specifically sex and gender. At first glance my education doesn’t quite reflect my passion for paleopathology. I am often asked how bachelor’s degrees in Women’s Studies and Anthropology coadunate. Women’s Studies and my related community service have honed my analytical skills, led me to the idea of studying sex and gender in relation to disease, and given my life and work a social conscience. I had participated in activism before college, yet my undergraduate experiences radically altered how I viewed the world and its potential for social change. Travel, conversation partnering, activism, and classes in Anthropology, African American, and Women’s Studies taught me to think critically about human culture and behavior. Meanwhile, gender-equity organizing and assaults in the local community showed me the need for activism against sexual assault. I’ve focused on prevention, fueled by a strong personal need to make the world a less painful place. Most inspiring was organizing the “Outrage Rally against Sexual Assault,” which attempted to raise awareness about and de-stigmatize assault in response to a series of assaults on the Mythic University campus. This rally had a positive impact in empowering survivors, evidenced by subsequent increased reporting of assault rates. Organizing has also taught me successful leadership and teamwork skills, applicable to academic and social settings. I’ve learned the subtleties of integrating multiple perspectives into a shared vision and a success through networking with University administrators, Police Departments, nationally recognized activists, Congress persons, fellow students, and the general public. As head organizer for Mythic University’s 20xx “Take Back the Night,” attended by more than 500 people, I headed a seven-committee, twenty-person organizing team. In addition to recognition, as with the 20xx Service Award—Mythic University’s highest undergraduate award for good citizenry and academics—organizing has honed my critical thinking skills and prepared me for performing innovative and multidisciplinary graduate research. I want to study the relationship between human pathology and culture, looking specifically at disease in the context of sex and gender in non-modern European These pages were downloaded from Writing Personal Statements Online, available at https://www.e-education.psu.edu/writingpersonalstatementsonline/
populations. My field of interest is new in paleopathology, so I will integrate paleoepidemiology and paleodemography—the studies of ancient disease processes and population dynamics—with gender and cultural studies and European history, contextualizing disease historically and culturally. My goal is to look at what health and disease can tell us macrocosmically and individually about social and sexual inequity, socioeconomic class, and gender-related quality of life.
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