Megan C. Braun ’10 has become the first UC Irvine student to win a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, which funds study at the University of Oxford in England. She is among 32 Americans and 80 students internationally to be named 2011 Rhodes scholars.

Braun graduated from UCI with a bachelor’s in history and a minor in philosophy. A junior member of Phi Beta Kappa, she was president of the student government for two years and goalie for the women’s varsity water polo team. Earlier this year, she garnered the UCI Alumni Association’s 2010 Lauds & Laurels award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student, and next month she’ll receive a 2010 Living Our Values Award from the university.

“My colleagues and I are thrilled for Megan Braun,” said UCI humanities dean Vicki L. Ruiz. “She’s exceptional in every respect – a capacious critical thinker and a dynamic student leader. As a Rhodes scholar, she will further her development as a well-educated global citizen, and we can all take pride in her future.”

Braun has studied the ethical constructs of war and peacemaking at the University of Cambridge in England. Her senior thesis looked at the ways in which weapons technology desensitizes U.S. soldiers to loss of life, and she is especially interested in “just war theory” and war crimes law. She plans to earn a master’s at Oxford in international relations.

“This is something I have aspired to since I was a freshman in college and I’m thrilled to be UC Irvine’s first Rhodes Scholar,” Braun said. “Studying the moral dilemmas inherent to warfare is a perfect fusion of my interest in history, philosophy, ethics and law.”

Braun, the San Diego-bred daughter of a U.S. Navy officer, says growing up in a military family influenced her interest in the ethics of war and peacemaking.

More than 1,500 American students each year seek their institution’s endorsement for a Rhodes scholarship. This year, 837 were endorsed by 309 colleges and universities. Selection committees in 16 national districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interviews.

The 32 U.S. scholars join others from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland), Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, called the scholarships “the oldest and best-known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 per the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and colonial Africa pioneer.

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