Two Duke Political Science students win Rhodes Scholarships

Monday, November 23, 2015

Jay Ruckelshaus, who majors in Political Science, and Laura Roberts, who minors in Political Science, both won Rhodes Scholarships this year.  According to DukeToday, they were chosen "from among 869 applicants at 316 colleges and universities throughout the country, and are the 44th and 45th students in Duke's history to receive a Rhodes Scholarship."

Duke's Political Science faculty were overjoyed to hear their students' acclaim.  And two faculty, who taught and mentored Jay and Laura, have these remarks to share:

I have known Jay since his freshman year when he took my introductory political science course PS 115, The Rules of Power: Introduction to Political Institutions, in spring of 2013. Because the course was small, I got to know individual students well and run it at a very intense level of intellectual engagement. Jay who had already contacted me to get reading guidance before the semester began emerged as head and shoulders above all the other students, including a couple of graduate MA students who participated in this course. Jay stood out both in terms of his capacity to ask penetrating questions about concept formation and causal analysis in the social sciences as well as in his written work for the class.  He founded and directs Ramp Less Traveled, financially and operationally assisting individuals with spinal cord injuries to seek out and enroll in university degree programs.  His entrepreneurial gifts have enabled him not only to state a policy case for improving the educational opportunities of young handicapped citizens, but also to raise rather substantial financial resources to enable them to pursue their aspirations. The fact that his organization could issue several university scholarships to students with spinal cord injury is impressive. Jay’s social activism through his own foundation, but also through a range of other venues is truly unprecedented and rivaled by no student I have ever come across. - Herbert Kitschelt

Laura is a gifted communicator, equally adept at writing persuasive essays or debating difficult policy problems.  She is thoughtful and quiet, and that combination of qualities might be mistaken for softness -- until one challenges her, and she digs in and defends her position.  I remember one fine moment that came recently in the context of formal class presentations.  The other teacher and I make a point of trying to disrupt the student presenters by pestering them with questions ranging from the petty to the profound.  Laura handled them with such exceptional poise that I commented privately to my colleague, 'This is impressive.  She is really good at this.'  I expect she will make a career out of similarly disarming others, and I am confident she will emerge as a leader in her generation. - Peter Feaver