Senior earns scholarship to UK

By Eric Anderson

The day before his interview with the Chicago Marshall Scholarship panel, Ian Clausen, senior in LAS and the first University student to be awarded the scholarship in more than 10 years, finally bought a suit that fit him.

The Marshall Scholarship provides roughly 40 recipients with two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom, which Clausen will use to study theological ethics at the University of Edinburgh.

“It’s kind of goofy the way it’s so professionalized,” he said. “We’re just going to talk for half an hour. I was able to kind of laugh at myself.”

Twenty-two years old and dressed in the last-minute suit that he hadn’t owned two days prior, Clausen said that before going into the Marshall interview, he felt the same emotional release that he experienced during his career as a runner.

“The anxiety starts to build up,” Clausen said. “You go to the bathroom 10 times. Right before they shoot the gun there’s 30 seconds or so when they’re getting everyone on the line. Suddenly it’s like, ‘All right, this is happening.'”

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    And it had been happening since Clausen’s freshman year when he originally considered applying for prestigious international scholarships. David Schug, co-director of scholarships for international study, said he remembered Clausen coming to informational meetings.

    As a junior, Clausen began to write his applications less than two weeks before the May 31 priority deadline.

    “The whole time I was writing these personal essays for this priority application, I was doubting whether or not I was actually going to submit it,” he said.

    With Schug’s multiple edits, Clausen said he labored through approximately 10 drafts of a 1,000-word personal statement in which he proved his worthiness to be one of about 40 students in the nation to receive the scholarship.

    “The same thousand words, again and again and again,” Clausen said. “Literally at times it was me staring at a blank page.”

    Clausen said it was difficult to look at the impressive resumes of other applicants and past recipients.

    “I haven’t mediated peace between countries,” he said. “I started an organization on campus about AIDS.”

    Clausen also “dodged bullets” from University interviewing panels that included, among other esteemed faculty, Anthony J. Leggett, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics. Clausen said he exited mock-interviews feeling “like I just stuck my neck out there, and it got chopped off.”

    But Clausen was not unfamiliar with adversity. A former track and cross-country runner for the University, Clausen said a “decisive turning point” in his college career came his sophomore year at a Loyola University meet. While running the last leg of the race, he collapsed 300 meters from the finish line.

    “My eyes were blurring a little bit,” Clausen said. “I thought it was just sweat, but eventually I just blacked out and collapsed.” Clausen remembers the Goo Goo Dolls playing “Iris,” singing the lyrics: “I don’t want the world to see me.”

    After collapsing, possibly from heat exhaustion, Clausen stopped running on the team, but continued to run up to 80 miles a week for recreation.

    The episode allowed Clausen to get involved in other opportunities he might not have pursued.

    As a Marshall Scholar, he looks forward to engaging with people who are interested in using ethics as a tool to curb tensions springing from current global issues, such as global warming.

    “Theologians have the best job because they always have someone other than the other academics to talk to,” Clausen said. “You always have the church to listen to you.”

    Schug said he foresees a bright future for Clausen.

    “I expect to be reading what he writes,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a mover and a shaker.”