UA boasts two Rhodes finalists

Two University of Alabama students have been named finalists for the Rhodes scholarship, an international award for study at the University of Oxford.

Senior Nathan Corder and spring 2011 graduate Parker White are one round away from receiving two years of paid tuition for study in Oxford and the distinction of being a Rhodes Scholar.

Corder, a mathematics major and member of the Computer Based Honors program from Pickerington, Ohio, wants to use his research in data-mining and not-for-profit fundraising to help solve the world’s hunger problem.

“Hunger is something I’m passionate about,” Corder said.  “It’s the universal unifying tragedy. We’ve all been hungry. Every person on the planet knows what that feeling is.  Now take that feeling and extrapolate it out that now you’re living with it day in and day out. But, hunger can be cured. There does exist enough food that, if distributed properly and with all the resources allocated, you could feed everyone in the world.”

Corder was named a first-team Academic All-American as a cross-country runner for the Crimson Tide. He serves as the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which works to improve the lives of student-athletes.

White, who double-majored in English and classics and minored in creative writing and the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, wants to use his background in literature to promote social justice.

“I plan to become a teacher, hopefully a professor at a university level, and work with students, teaching literature and creative writing,” White said. “By teaching students and by my own writing, I want to encourage people to think critically. By helping people become thoughtful citizens and leaders of the world, I hope to directly benefit social justice.”

During his time at UA, White founded the literary magazine Dewpoint. He currently works for Impact Alabama, a non-profit organization that fights systemic poverty and its symptoms in the state of Alabama.

Brad Tuggle, campus representative for the Rhodes Scholarship and a Rhodes Scholar himself, said both candidates have the attributes needed to win the scholarship.

“Our two candidates this year are both superb scholars and leaders,” Tuggle said. “Their intellectual curiosity, philanthropic goals and well-rounded, mature outlook on the world represent the best of what UA students can strive for in their years here on campus.”

The final round in the selection process is Nov. 19 in Birmingham, Ala. Each candidate will face a single, 20-minute interview that includes questions involving current events related to the candidate’s field of study. Both Corder and White have prepared by participating in several mock interviews.

“I’ve done mock interviews to the point that they’ve said you really don’t need another one, but I said it can’t hurt to practice more,” Corder said. “I’m a distance runner: going out and putting in lots of miles is sort of my thing.”

Rhodes Scholarship applicants are divided into 16 geographical regions. Two scholarships are awarded per region, making up the 32 scholarships awarded in the United States each year. Corder and White are in Region 7, which includes Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.

“I’d speculate only 10 to 16 people from those three states have been invited to Birmingham for the final interview,” White said. “It is something to be celebrated in itself. I am happy for that accomplishment. It’s amazing.”

The University of Alabama had two Rhodes Scholar finalists last year, Ynhi Thai and Greg McElroy, though neither won the award. The University has produced 15 Rhodes Scholars, the most recent being Tuggle in 2001.

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