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OSU senior wins prestigious scholarship

Friday, January 13, 2006

TILLWATER, OK -- Oklahoma State University senior Kara Cook of Stillwater has been named one of 12 national recipients of the coveted 2006-2007 George J. Mitchell Scholarship.

Cook, the first OSU student ever to receive the Mitchell award, will use the fellowship to study for a master’s degree in Anglo-Irish Literature at University College in Dublin, Ireland.

“I want to congratulate Kara on this tremendous achievement,” said OSU System CEO and President David Schmidly. “The Mitchell has, in its eight-year history, become a highly prestigious award, due to the limited number of awards they give out and the large number of applications. Kara’s success once again shows the quality of the education and campus experience at OSU. I also congratulate the faculty who taught her, and the many students who worked alongside her.”

Dr. Bob Graalman, director of Scholar Development and Recognition, said, “Kara came to OSU with a lot of ambition and talent, and the Mitchell Scholarship was clearly a perfect match for her interests and abilities. Everyone who worked with her felt she was a perfect candidate, and evidently the Mitchell selection committee felt the same.”

Launched in 1998, the Mitchell Scholarship recognizes outstanding young Americans who exhibit the highest standards of academic excellence, leadership and community service. Administered by the US-Ireland Alliance, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., the Scholarship is named in honor of the pivotal role the former U.S. Senator played in the Northern Ireland peace process. The Mitchell Scholarship program links future American leaders to the island of Ireland by a year of graduate study at a university in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Although still relatively new, the Mitchell Scholarships have become one of the most prestigious, intensely competed fellowship programs in the United States. Recipients have withdrawn from the long-established Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright competitions to pursue a Mitchell Scholarship. There were 236 applicants from 171 colleges and universities for this year’s 12 awards.

As part of the interview process, Cook traveled to two interviews in Washington, D.C., in late fall.

According to Graalman, one of the primary reasons Cook was so competitive was her balance between academics and public service at a very high level. “Not only is she a fantastic scholar, she is a great public servant who wants to help improve the condition of society,” he said. He also cited the wonderful job that OSU faculty from several disciplines did in describing her attributes for the required letters of recommendation.

Dr. Bob Darcy, OSU Regents Professor of Political Science and a dual citizen of Ireland and the U.S., carried the Mitchell Fellowship information to the OSU Office of Scholar Development and Recognition a few years ago. He has served as a teacher and mentor for Cook.

“I’m excited about Kara and that the Mitchell Fellowship is something that OSU is adding to its history of achieving for its students,” Darcy said. “ Ireland is an interesting and exciting place with ancient universities, and Kara is going to have a wonderful and stimulating time there.”

On Jan. 26, “The Oklahoma Women’s Almanac,” a book authored by Darcy and co-authored by Cook, will be available. It is being published by OPSA Press, and is a project of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women, and the Women’s Archives at OSU.

OSU James Joyce scholar, Dr. Ed Walkiewicz, mentored Cook’s proposals and played the lead role in helping her organize the ideas for her application, Graalman said.

“Kara's scholarship is creative, adventurous, and thorough. I have had the pleasure of directing her fascinating Honors thesis on James Joyce and America,” Walkiewicz said. “Going by what she has told me, the ambitiousness and appropriateness of her project greatly impressed the Mitchell selection committee, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon.”

Cook, a graduate of Stillwater High School, will receive her bachelor’s degree in English and political science this spring. She is the daughter of Lones Frank Cook and Debra Givray, now of Highlands Ranch, Colo.

She currently is chair of the Student Government Association Senate, and was chair of the budget committee. She serves as a student representative on the OSU Diversity Task Force, and founded and directs the Committee on African Americans to study and make recommendations on remedying the historically low minority presence at the university.

Cook was president of the ECO-OSU organization, an umbrella group to unify and coordinate university environmental advocacy groups, and was recycling chair of the OSU student government. To promote reading literature, she inaugurated what is now an annual university event, the OSU Literary Awareness Week.

The Mitchell Scholarship program was inaugurated in 1998 with an endowment from the Government of Ireland. Other significant financial support is provided by the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, BD (Becton Dickinson & Company), Bombardier Aerospace (NI) Foundation, Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, The Crucible Corporation, and the McDonnell Charitable Foundation.

USIT, Ireland’s premier student travel organization, provides a travel stipend to each scholar, and universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland contribute housing and tuition to the Mitchell Scholars.

The Mitchell Scholarship Selection Committee included Dr. Ian Brick, a retired senior business executive born in Belfast; Mark Ein, founder and CEO of Venturehouse Group; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon; William F. Harris, Executive Director of Science Foundation Ireland; Kenton Keith, vice president of the Meridian International Center; Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute; Orla O’Hanrahan, counselor of the Embassy of Ireland; and Tim Losty, director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington, DC.

Corporate sponsors of the US-Ireland Alliance include CRH, Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, Diageo Ireland, IONA Technologies, and the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group.

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