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UC Berkeley student wins prestigious Marshall Scholarship

– A University of California, Berkeley, student with a profound interest in human rights work has been awarded a prestigious Marshall Scholarship from the British government.

The scholarship has been awarded to 44 students across the country and seven students in California. It allows graduating college students to pursue advanced degrees at academic institutions in the United Kingdom. The Marshall Scholarship commission recently announced the names of these winners.

Elizabeth Wang, 22, a history major in UC Berkeley's College of Letters & Science, plans to study human rights at the London School of Economics.

"It was definitely a shock - shock and elation," Wang said. "I'm really grateful and excited."

The Marshall Scholarship is considered one of the highest honors for college students. Its winners are selected based on their academic excellence - all must have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.7, leadership potential and an interest in society.

"Lisa represents a lot of what's best about Berkeley students," said UC Berkeley English Professor Robert Hass, a former U.S. Poet Laureate. "She's very bright, of course, and she writes beautifully -crisp, lucid sentences -and she's very articulate. In speech and on the page, she has a fresh, meticulous clarity and eloquence. These are the gifts of the very talented.

"What makes Elizabeth special beyond that -and especially like the best qualities of Berkeley students -is the breadth of her interests, and the creativity and initiative with which she's pursued her own education. She makes use of her teachers, she makes her own opportunities and takes advantage of them."

Wang was born and raised in Napa. While at UC Berkeley, she selected courses that interested her and worked hard to obtain as broad an education as possible. Along the way, she racked up a 3.9 GPA.

Her interest in human rights is rooted in her family's experience - her grandparents have recounted stories of living through the Japanese occupation of China - but it grew as she studied history and wondered why mass atrocities occurred and how people handled them. Since her freshman year, Wang's work as a staff member for the campus's War Crimes Study Center further fueled her interest in the field.

She selected the London School of Economics because of the strength of its master's program in human rights, particularly the interdisciplinary nature of the program.

"A lot of people are studying international tribunals, international humanitarian law," she said. "Look at the things going on in Iraq right now. It's a new field, and there need to be new specialists."

The British government established the Marshall Scholarship in 1953 in gratitude to the United States for its assistance after World War II under the Marshall Plan. The scholarship program seeks to promote intellectual, personal and cultural exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Over the years, more than a dozen UC Berkeley students have been named Marshall Scholars. The last time UC Berkeley students were named winners of such an award was in 2000.

The scholarship of approximately $50,000 covers tuition, books, living expenses and transportation to and from the United States.

Wang had never previously applied for scholarships or awards and only did so this time at the urging of professors.

"I just never thought of myself as one of those people who would get such an honor," she said. "I didn't save starving orphans. I didn't start my own company or anything like that...I have shown a long and lasting commitment to human rights."

Following her studies in London, Wang plans to attend law school and pursue a career in the human rights field, perhaps with the United Nations or with a non-governmental organization, monitoring war trials.

"Lisa Wang has a refreshingly independent mind and a voracious appetite for ideas," said David Hollinger, a UC Berkeley history professor. "She looks for the most challenging of projects, and executes them with a wonderful combination of analytical confidence and emotional enthusiasm."