Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This past Saturday, Caitlin Mullarkey ’09 discovered that she had been selected as one of thirty-two Rhodes Scholars, one of the most prestigious awards offered to college students.
The programs offers the Scholars $50,000 a year to pursue an education at the University of Oxford in England. The Rhodes Trust, which administers the selection process, was charged with finding individuals who “offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead.”
“I’ve been walking around in a daze since I found out,” said Mullarkey, who was intently studying the Oxford website and the school’s thirty-eight colleges just prior to her interview with the Gazette. “I was shocked on Saturday, and I felt like there had been a coin toss and it just happened to be on my side.”
Mullarkey was one of three candidates from Swarthmore. Aaron Schwartz ’09 and Mark Dlugash ’08 rounded out the College’s contingent, and made up a full quarter of the candidates in region four, which encompasses Pennsylvania and Delaware. “It is awesome and intimidating that 3 of the 12 were from Swat,” said Mullarkey, “everyone [at the finalists event] were just incredibly impressive.”
All of the finalists were interviewed at Haverford College in a series of 25-minute-long interviews before a panel of six, including a US Appeals Court judge and four professors. Last year, Andrew Sniderman ’07 came out of his interview feeling like he had “been playing T-Ball,” as he revealed in a discussion with the Gazette, but Mullarkey had been far less confident. “I didn’t feel like I had made a very convincing argument,” she admitted.
Clearly though, she was convincing enough. Mullarkey is an honors biology major, was recently named to ESPN’s Academic All-america Women’s Soccer Team, and holds the College record for the steeplechase.
Mullarkey is sure, however, that the efforts of the Fellowships and Awards Office and her advisors—Professor Amy Vollmer of Swarthmore and Professor Alex Theos of Georgetown—were central in her success. “I did three mock interviews,” Mullarkey explained, “and I thought the committees gave me a harder time here. It was really helpful.” The Rhodes is also known for requiring eight letters of recommendation, and Mullarkey offered high praise for her letter-writers. “I simply couldn’t have done it without them,” she noted.
Now that she has the award—and the soccer team is winding down from an intense and successful season—Mullarkey is starting to plan what comes next. She images herself earning a Masters in Pathology at Oxford, and then returning to the States, complete an MD-PhD, and then “to work on vaccine development” which would allow her to “work at the interface of pure scientific research and then clinical applications of developing therapies.”