Intellectually Driven

Rhodes Scholarship finalist and Goldwater Scholar Will Jay, ’12, knows having a double major in physics and German has broadened his perspective.

“The cold elegance of mathematics and physics provides a contrast to the beautiful imperfections—even contradictions—offered by a foreign language,” says Jay, who is from Logansport, Indiana. “Besides, you can’t beat reading Einstein in the original!

 Rhodes Scholarship finalist and Goldwater Scholar Will Jay

“With the focus of Ball State’s physics program at the undergraduate level, I’ve been afforded opportunities here that I wouldn’t have gotten at other schools, where the research emphasis is in graduate work. I have felt a tremendous sense of community that comes from being around a group of people—students and faculty alike—who are intellectually curious and willing to ask tough questions.”

Jay plans to pursue a doctoral degree in theoretical particle physics. He is the third Ball State finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship in the past two years. 2011 Ball State graduates Abigail Shemoel, a landscape architecture major from Kokomo, Indiana, and Matt Tancos, a biology major from Valparaiso, Indiana, were finalists for the award last year. Shemoel is also a Udall Scholar. “What I’d really like to do,” she says, “is make use of my education and find a way to apply it so that it really works to improve and address the rapid urban growth that’s taking place around the world.”

 Rhodes Scholarship finalist Abigail Shemoel

Her accomplishments during her Ball State career have had a wide geographical range. They include a campus sustainability report (an immersive learning project through Building Better Communities Fellows), designs for downtown Muncie, Indiana, and field studies in Boston. Shemoel’s curiosity has taken her around the world. She studied urban landscapes during a month-long program in Europe, spent three months in Argentina volunteering for the Foundation for Sustainable Development, researched the effects of environmental management on ecotourism in Costa Rica, and spent a semester examining sustainable settlements in Brazil. She’s discovered how to respond and develop real plans for diverse places that allow people and the environment to thrive together.

Harry S. Truman Scholar Megan Whitacre, ’11, political science major, is focusing on volunteering in sub-Saharan Africa before beginning her graduate work. She then intends to work as a legislative assistant before becoming a campaign coordinator for Oxfam America or a similar nonprofit relief organization.

“The Honors College was the best part of my experience at Ball State,” she says. “My honors professors made it OK to question my understanding of the world and even of myself. Without those environments in which I was encouraged to push myself, I wouldn’t have even applied for the Truman Scholarship or run a poverty-reduction campaign on campus.”