Ohio State student named 2013 Marshall Scholar
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:01
South Yorkshire, England, apparently bears some striking resemblances to Solon, Ohio.
At least according to Alex Chaitoff, who recently became the sixth Marshall Scholar in Ohio State’s history.
Chaitoff, a fourth-year in microbiology and political science, became one of 34 students to be named a 2013 Marshall Scholar. He is the first Marshall Scholar that OSU has seen since 2007.
“He’s very unusual in the sense that he has a lot of initiative and just loves to learn about new things,” said Thomas Wickizer, a professor within the OSU College of Public Health who has worked with Chaitoff for the past two years. “He really came to appreciate learning about public health sciences. He came to figure out how he could take that new found understanding and combine it with the want to go to medical school. And I think that’s how he came to win the Marshall Scholarship.”
The Marshall Scholarship was founded in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall by a 1953 Act of Parliament in order to pay tribute to the Marshall Plan, a World War II-era program where the U.S. provided monetary aid to Europe. The scholarships fund opportunities for American students to do one to three years of graduate study at any institution in the United Kingdom. Between 30 and 40 scholars are chosen each year with the aim of fostering mutual understanding between Great Britain and America through the advancement of any field of study a Marshall Scholar wishes to pursue, according to the scholarship website.
Chaitoff, who was also awarded the competitive national Truman Scholarship in 2012, has done research with Wickizer in the College of Public Health and with Tina Henkin in the Department of Microbiology. He is also involved with Global Health Initiative, the Undergraduate Research Office's Student Advisory Committee and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. He co-founded and directs research for the Pure Water Access Project, a nonprofit organization that helps people in developing countries access clean water.
Chaitoff acknowledges several people for his successful record, including Wickizer and Henkin. But he said without the guidance of Dana Kuchem, an adviser in the Undergraduate Fellowship Office, he never would have been able to successfully maneuver each scholarship application.
“Without the Undergraduate Fellowship Office, I would have been completely lost,” Chaitoff said. “Without them, I guarantee I never would have been awarded any of these fellowships.”
Kuchem said working with students like Chaitoff is why the UFO was established.
“The fellowship office has only been around for a handful of years, and the whole reason the university created it was because of these types of national competitions,” Kuchem said. “The university really wants to invest in OSU students, and they know that that means somebody has to help them.”
Chaitoff has chosen to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England.
“I chose Sheffield because I’m really interested in the social-cultural components of health care,” Chaitoff said. “Sheffield has an MPH program, and they have people that work with government institutions and have connections to the British health care system, which I’m very interested in learning about.”
Chaitoff said he chose Sheffield because of its similarities to where he grew up right outside of Cleveland in Solon, Ohio.
“I think I can learn a lot that could later be applied back to the United States and applied back to my hometown and the situation there,” Chaitoff said. “So because of the way Scheffield mirrors a Midwestern city, I thought it was the perfect place to study social and cultural components of health care, which is what I want to do.”
Some people who know Chaitoff and his goals for the future said there are many things that set him apart from other students who apply for distinguished scholarships.
“I think he has great dedication to academic excellence,” Wickizer said. “And he combines that with a great commitment to social justice. He’s also humble about his intelligence.”