KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 18, 2019 – Two recent University of Rhode Island graduates are competing in the final stages of selection for two of the most renowned international scholarships for postgraduate study.
Madison Cook-Hines, of Coventry, a 2019 graduate in theater, and Autumn Guillotte, of North Kingstown, a 2018 graduate in history and philosophy, are finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship; Cook-Hines is also a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship.
Cook-Hines interviewed for the Marshall award Nov. 14 at the British Consul General’s residence in Boston. Both take part in Rhodes interviews on Nov. 23 in Boston. Rhodes Scholar selections are scheduled to be announced Nov. 24; Marshall selections will be made public in early December.
For the Rhodes, the two are among 14 finalists in a district composed of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. The Rhodes, one of the oldest and best-known fellowships, annually selects 32 U.S. scholars across 16 regional districts, providing full financial support to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The Marshall Scholarship annually selects about 160 finalists across eight regional districts, awarding about 40 scholarships for graduate study at any university in the U.K. URI’s region includes all of New England except Fairfield County in Connecticut.
URI has had one prior scholarship winner in each the Rhodes and Marshall: Rachel Walshe ‘00, now a URI lecturer in theater, was the University’s first Rhodes Scholar, in 2002; Morgan Breene ’14 was the school’s first Marshall Scholar, in 2015.
“Madison and Autumn, beyond their obvious academic merit, are committed to using their talents and leadership ability for the betterment of the world,” said Kathleen Maher, director of the office of National Fellowships & Academic Opportunities in the Honors Program. “Having two students vying for such prestigious scholarships speaks to the caliber of our students and the opportunities that the university avails them, as well as the exceptional mentoring that our faculty offers to students.”
Cook-Hines graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts last spring, completing concentrations in directing and stage management. At URI, she served as a teaching assistant for the Sophomore Acting Class and received an undergraduate research grant from (URI)² to research, write, design, cast, produce and direct “Daughters of Lavinia,” an original play that told the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Women’s Suffrage Movement using characters from Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” This fall, she was invited back to URI, less than six months after graduating, to direct one of the Theatre Department’s main stage productions.
“Madison embodies exactly what a public, liberal arts education seeks to cultivate: a voracious appetite for learning, multivalent ambitions, and a deep-seated impulse to serve others,” said Walshe, Cook-Hines’ faculty mentor. “It is for these reasons that Madison makes an extraordinary candidate for not one, but two highly esteemed fellowships.”
Since leaving URI, Cook-Hines has apprenticed as an assistant director at the Gloucester Stage Company, in Massachusetts. At URI, she is making her professional directing debut this fall, heading the ambitious “She Kills Monsters,” a show that recreates a Dungeons & Dragons world complete with multiple monsters and elaborate staging and costumes. After interviewing for the Marshall Scholarship in Boston Nov. 14, she headed back to Kingston for the play’s opening that night.
“I do my best work when I’m busiest, so I’m looking at it as a positive,” said Cook-Hines. “My hope is that I’ll be so busy worrying about one so I won’t be as worried about the other. It’s bonkers, but the University has offered a lot of support in helping me prepare for something I’ve never done before.”
Cook-Hines, who transferred to URI her sophomore year from American University, originally pursued environmental studies before shifting her major to theater, her initial interest after graduating from high school. Seeking to enter an honors class in biology at URI, she was encouraged to take a theater class for academic enrichment. The class, Heart of Darkness: Staging the Unthinkable, taught by Walshe, reignited her interest in theater.
“I sort of grudgingly agreed to take the class,” said Cook-Hines. “It was fascinating. It was everything that I thought I had falsely believed was true about theater, that it’s deeply intellectual and can be visceral and engaging.”
Through a Rhodes or Marshall scholarship, her goal is to eventually create theater that is socially relevant, artful and compelling. “A lot of what I’ve been doing over the last year has been wonderful. I’ve gotten a great chance to work in theater,” said Cook-Hines. “But I would love the opportunity to deepen my knowledge. It would be an incredibly enriching experience, diving into scholarship that I would not have a chance to do otherwise. Also, you are joining a community of scholarship. That’s something that’s both an honor and a great opportunity.”
Guillotte is no stranger to competing for top scholarships – and winning them. In 2017, she was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar, an award that recognizes academic achievement, leadership and commitment to a career in public service.
“She really has exemplified that. Her particular interests are women’s rights and working class rights, and using history as a tool to inform policy,” said Maher. “She’s tenacious. She’s brilliant and she’s completely committed to public service.”
Guillotte is pursuing a one-year master’s degree in Public History at the University College Dublin. Before heading to Ireland this past year, Guillotte took part in demonstrations to support reproductive rights legislation at the Rhode Island Statehouse, earning recognition from state Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Jordan Hevenor, director of The Womxn Project.
As an undergraduate, Guillotte used a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation’s Michael P. Metcalf Memorial Fund to go to Chicago to trace the footsteps of one of her heroes, Mary “Mother” Jones, an early 1900s labor organizer. Guillotte created a website and guided tour of sites important in the life of Mother Jones. Guillotte has also served on the Rhode Island Government Oversight Committee, advocated for women’s rights as an intern with the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, and is currently a member of the Rhode Island Labor History Society.
When she learned recently that she was a finalist for the Rhodes, she was studying late at the college library in Dublin – and was asked to leave when her revelry got too loud. “In a word – amazing,” she wrote in an email. “I feel so honored, especially when I think of all the people who took the time to get me to this point. This is not just for me, but for my family, my friends, and my broader community at URI.”
Her work with myriad organizations such as the Womxn Project has strengthened her commitment to make a positive impact on the world, she said. In Ireland, her studies are giving her the skills to disseminate history across multiple platforms, with hopes to eventually use her research to affect public policy and advocacy. If she is selected for the Rhodes, she plans to pursue a master of philosophy in social and economic history at Oxford.
“For me community is everything,” she said. “When I won the Truman Scholarship, I gained a community of like-minded and talented public servants. I’ve gained lifelong friends and connections. Now that my research has taken an international turn, I am certain that if given the opportunity to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, I can expect that same community, on a more global scale – brilliant and dedicated leaders who all have a vision on how to make the world a better place.”
Track record of success
Students seeking to apply for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships first must earn nominations from their university. The University’s office of National Fellowship & Academic Opportunities, which opened in 1996 under the auspices of the Honors Program, helps select and guide candidates for major scholarships through the arduous application process.
The office, said Maher, has developed a solid track record with students who have applied for national scholarships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, Goldwater, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Hollings and Boren.
In the last academic year, 14 of the 22 students who competed for national awards that required institutional nominations became finalists or awardees. For the 2019 Boren Awards, six of the seven URI applicants won the award; the seventh was selected as an alternate. Since 1998, URI has had 13 finalists for the Marshall, including one student selected for the scholarship and another who was named an alternate just last year.