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Student awarded prestigious Marshall Scholarship: Third in College's history

For the third time in history -- and the first time in 15 years -- a student at the College of William and Mary has been awarded the prestigious Marshall Scholarship.Judd Kennedy. By Erin Zagursky.

Judd Kennedy, a senior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies at the College, will use the scholarship for two years of study at the University of London's School for Oriental and African Studies. Kennedy plans to pursue two master’s degrees during his time there – one in international law and diplomacy and the other in international management for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We’re delighted that the British government shares our boundless esteem for Judd Kennedy,” said William and Mary President Gene R. Nichol. “His international research, his commitment to service, his full immersion in the College’s storied Honor Council—all these capture profound William and Mary aspirations. He’ll bring much, including a humility all the more striking for his attainments, to the University of London—and no doubt make us proud for many years to come.”

According to the program’s Web site, Marshall Scholarships finance “young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom.” The scholarship program is named for U.S. Gen. George C. Marshall and was established in 1953 by an act of British Parliament. According to the British Consulate General’s Web site, the program was created “as a thank you to the American people for the assistance given to Europe in the aftermath of World War II through the European Recovery Program - commonly known as the Marshall Plan.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled by the prospect of a Marshall Scholarship,” said Kennedy. “Not just because of the chance that I’ll be able to study my master’s program but also because I’ll be able to live in London and work with numerous Middle Eastern studies experts.”

During his time at William and Mary, Kennedy has been involved in various social justice and activism groups, including the International Justice Mission and the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. He was a scholar and fellow with the Sharpe Community Scholars Program and has also been involved for four years on the undergraduate Honor Council, where he currently serves as chair.

Many of Kennedy’s summers during college have been spent abroad conducting research. After his freshman year, he went to West Bank where he studied Arabic and did research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After his sophomore year, he used his Monroe grant to travel to France and Germany, following a trail that President John F. Kennedy took after his freshman year of college and comparing the two experiences in light of the increased immigration in recent years from North Africa to major urban centers in Europe. Most recently, in the summer of 2007, he received a grant to study Arabic and volunteer with the Middle Eastern Council of Churches in Damascus, Syria.

During his time at William and Mary, Kennedy said he developed a passion for studying the interactions between religious groups in the Middle East. He is more broadly interested in ideas of social justice and positive change and would one day like to live and study in the Middle East’s Levant region. Although he is not sure what he’ll do after he earns his master’s degrees, he said that, in the context of a post-9/11 world, he wants to make a positive contribution to American foreign policy in the Middle East.

“Usually, it’s thought about in the context of fighting terrorism,” he said. “For me it’s not only that, but it’s also an idea of understanding a language and a culture and a people, making sure that they’re not essentialized, that there’s a nuanced understanding of what the Middle East is like, and a human element to know that they’re not that different from us as one might imagine, and being able to have an informed, rational idea of how to formulate U.S. policy in the Middle East.”

Kennedy is the College's third Marshall Scholar. Alumni John Pagan ('73) and Danielle Sepulveda ('93) also received scholarships under the program. In addition to alumni, the College also has three Marshall Scholars on its faculty. They include Angela Banks, assistant professor of law; Rowan Lockwood, associate professor of geology; and Debra Shulman, instructor of government.

Shulman, who studied at Oxford University on her scholarship, participated in a mock interview with Kennedy to help him prepare for his Marshall interview.

“As a fellow Middle East specialist, I can attest to Judd's impressive knowledge of contemporary politics, as well as his thoughtfulness in approaching contentious questions of U.S. policy toward the region,” she said. “I am thrilled that Judd has been awarded a Marshall Scholarship.”

Dr. Ray Raymond, chairman of the New York Marshall committee, said that he was profoundly impressed with Kennedy.

"Judd Kennedy is an exceptional young Arabist. We are thrilled to have this brilliant future diplomat as a Marshall Scholar,” he said. “His passionate commitment to public service and to the cause of Middle East peace is truly inspiring. Judd has that rare combination of academic and personal excellence, ability, grace, modesty and maturity.”

Since the program’s inception, about 1,500 American men and women have used the scholarships to study in more than 44 different universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Currently, 40 scholarships are awarded per year.

Notable past recipients include Bruce Babbitt, who went on to become governor of Arizona and U.S. Secretary of the Interior for President Bill Clinton; Stephen Breyer, who has been an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1994; and Thomas Friedman, a multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist and columnist for The New York Times.

Kennedy will leave for England in September. Both the College and the Marshall Scholarship committee members look forward to what he will accomplish next.

“Judd simply sparkles. He will be a compassionate diplomat in the humane tradition of George C. Marshall. His potential is limitless,” said Raymond.