Marks named Rhodes Scholar
University of Louisville President James Ramsey calls her "our rock star." But most folks across the globe now will know Monica Marks as "Rhodes Scholar."
The May 2009 UofL graduate still is pinching herself after her "remarkable" selection as one of this year's 32 winners of a Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most prestigious award in academia.
Judges selected Marks after a final round of interviews Nov. 21 in Indianapolis. One of those judges credited Marks with giving the best interview she had seen in her years of rating Rhodes candidates.
Marks' selection as a Rhodes Scholar "reaffirms UofL's ability to recruit, retain and nurture the best students from across Kentucky," Ramsey said.
Marks grew up in Rush-a small town near Ashland-and comes from a humble family background. Her father owns a small business that sells janitorial products. Neither of her parents graduated from high school and her family's religious beliefs discourage pursuit of a college degree.
But Marks' father went against his church's teachings and supplied his inquisitive daughter with plenty of books.
A 2004 graduate of Russell Independent High School, Marks said she wanted to go to the University of Chicago, Columbia University or NYU but couldn't afford any of those schools.
UofL, which offered her a generous financial package, was her "back up plan."
"The University of Louisville blew all of my expectations out of the water - the friends I've made, the professors who've mentored me, the personal attention, the support system - it was the best decision I ever made" Marks said.
At UofL, Marks blazed new trails. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she traveled the world, mastered new languages, founded and coached the university's Intercollegiate Quiz Bowl Team and won highly-coveted awards and scholarships, including a Fulbright Award, a Critical Language Scholarship from the State Department and the Mary Churchill Humphrey Scholarship from the UofL College of Arts and Sciences. She graduated with a combined major in political science, women's and gender studies and philosophy.
Her Rhodes Scholarship will allow her to spend two years at the University of Oxford in England pursuing a master of philosophy degree in modern Middle Eastern studies. She hopes someday to help break down the barriers of misunderstanding between Muslims and other religions and cultures.
For now, however, Marks is hopeful that her selection as a Rhodes Scholar will send a message to other young women from eastern Kentucky that "it's possible. You can do it. You can make your dreams come true."
Marks is the fourth UofL graduate and the school's first female graduate to receive a Rhodes Scholarship, according to Rhodes' website.