Nov. 29, 2006

An advocate for refugees, alumna Elisabeth Becker wins Marshall Scholarship to attend Oxford University

Elisabeth Becker '06 has won a 2007 Marshall Scholarship that she will use at the University of Oxford, England, starting in October 2007.

Becker, who is from New York City, will study forced migration as a graduate student in development studies at Oxford. She also is interested in global governance and diplomacy as a possibility for a dual master's degree. She ultimately wants to influence refugee resettlement policy, either with human rights organizations or the United Nations.

"The international community and the national community have talked and talked about ending genocide, often speaking of it as a thing of the past, but obviously Darfur is an example in the 21st century that it is present," Becker said. "I don't believe there are innocent bystanders to genocide, so I think that it's really not just the calling, but the responsibility of my generation to bring a halt to these atrocities."

In 2005, Becker was one of 75 students nationwide to receive a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 award toward graduate study for students dedicated to public service. In summer 2004, she tutored former refugees in Kosovo and worked with the International Rescue Committee in New York; in 2003 she interned with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

The Manhattan native graduated summa cum laude in 2006 from the College of Arts and Sciences. As a Humanity in Action Fellow, Becker spent this fall in Berlin, researching migrant labor integration for the German government. Recently she conducted research on Darfur for Cornell professor of history John Weiss and on legal issues for Beth Van Schaack of Santa Clara University, for Judgment on Genocide: The International Citizens' Tribunal for Sudan, held Nov. 13 in New York City.

In his recommendation letter to the Marshall committee, Weiss cited Becker's "extremely powerful intellect," advanced analytical skills, "her long-running commitment to a career of service, and her deep commitment to expanding the culture of humanitarianism."

Becker was a College Scholar and Telluride Scholar at Cornell, with a major in sociology combined with a self-designed major studying the transnational effects of trauma on culture. In her senior year, she received the Harrop and Ruth Freeman Prize in Peace Studies and the Robert Wertheimer Award for best thesis in the Department of Sociology.

At Cornell her activism included the Darfur Fundraising Committee; STARS, a student group focused on genocide awareness; the Caceres-Neuffer Society for Humanitarian Affairs; and Engineers for a Sustainable World. She also founded Pottery for Potters, an annual fund-raising campaign to assist traditional artisans in Costa Rica.

"Elisabeth Becker is a future leader," said Mabel Berezin, associate professor of sociology. "She will be an alumna that Cornell will list among its great public intellectuals, such as Francis Fukuyama. [She] is on her way to making the world a better place."

Becker was one of two 2007 Marshall Scholarship finalists at Cornell, along with Lena Samsonenko '06. Cornell has produced 27 previous Marshall winners since 1963.

The Marshall Scholarship, established in 1953, covers the recipient for two years at any university in the United Kingdom, including living expenses, travel and grants for research and books. Applicants are reviewed by eight regional committees nationwide. Forty-three scholarships were awarded to students across the United States this year.