University News

WIU's Jenna Verity to Final Interview for Coveted Rhodes Scholarship

November 14, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – Jenna Verity (Schaumburg, IL), a senior political science major and an Honors pre-law minor at Western Illinois University, will be in Chicago Friday-Saturday, Nov. 18-19 to do what no other student has done in University history: interview, as a finalist, for the coveted Rhodes Scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship provides all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years. Thirty-two American men and women will be chosen as Rhodes Scholars, and they will join an international group of scholars chosen from 14 other jurisdictions around the world, according to the website (

"Jenna has compiled a stellar academic record and demonstrated remarkable leadership on this campus. I have long maintained that our WIU Centennial Honors students can compete with the very best students at any university in the nation. Jenna's selection as a finalist for the 'crown jewel of scholarships' reinforced this belief this past week," said Rick Hardy, Centennial Honors College director, who arranged for a group of faculty members to put Verity through mock interviews in preparation for this weekend.

"The application process requires a team effort as does preparing Verity for the interview. The interviews are grueling and intense, and the competition is great. So we put together a team of faculty members to assist Jenna in her preparation," Hardy added. "We are also grateful to President Jack Thomas and Provost Ken Hawkinson for their support and encouragement."

The faculty who have assisted in preparing Verity include Jill Myers, associate professor, law enforcement and justice administration; Davison Bideshi, assistant professor, sociology; Bill Knox, professor, English; Karen Greathouse, professor and chair of dietetics, fashion merchandising and hospitality; MaCherie Placide, assistant professor, political science; John Miller, associate professor, communication; Peter Jorgensen, professor and interim chair of communication; Larry Balsamo, professor emeritus, history; Renetta Seiler, assistant coach, track and field; Tim Roberts, assistant professor, history; and Keith Boeckleman, professor and interim chair, political science.

Verity said she has yet to grasp the reality of this extraordinary honor, only because she is so busy preparing.

"I have so much preparation to do that the prestige of the process has not hit me yet. I have to keep working toward my ultimate goal of studying abroad," she said.

Verity, who is on track to graduate in three years, has received significant academic scholarship awards at Western Illinois University, including the Presidential Scholarship, the Codilis Pre-Law Honors College Scholarship, the Keith Webb Memorial Scholarship, the Charles A. Leonard Memorial Scholarship and the Marcy and Lulu Bodine Scholarship. She is president of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity at Western and the University's chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Verity is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and was a senator-at-large on the Student Government Association. She also serves on the University's student judicial board, and was a campaign manager in Western's Mock Presidential Election.

A member of the track and field team, Verity set a personal-best in the 2011 outdoor season in the hammer throw (156-9 feet) at the Stan Lyons Invitational and a personal best in the weight throw at the 2011 Summit League Indoor Track and Field Championships, clearing 49-11.75 feet for ninth place. At the 2011 Summit League Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Verity finished 10th, with a throw of 148-4 feet, in the hammer throw.

"Her academic competition Saturday is against 10 other elite students whose hometowns are in Illinois and Michigan, however, in all likelihood, these students attend Ivy League schools, MIT, and other world-class institutions," Hardy said. "Whatever the outcome of the final interviews Saturday, I know that Jenna will carry our Western Illinois University banner high. She is already a winner in my book, and I am proud that she is a member of the Centennial Honors College."

"I take great pride that I am representing Western Illinois University. I feel that Western Illinois University students can compete with the best and brightest around the country, including students from Ivy League schools. I am thrilled about the opportunity," Verity said.

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