College senior wins Jack Kent Cooke scholarship

By Abhishek Kumar

College senior Mark Krakauer has been named one of the 50 outstanding college seniors to win the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, the most generous graduate scholarship in the nation, in its inaugural year. The Cooke Scholars receive an award that covers tuition and a living stipend of $50,000 for use at an accredited graduate institution in the year 2002-03, and the award is renewable for up to six years of study for those students who perform at a high level.

The late Jack Kent Cooke was the owner of the Chrysler Building in NYC, the LA Lakers, and the Washington Redskins. The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship aims to identify extraordinary individuals and help them pursue the kind of formal education Cooke himself could not acquire, though he had an immense respect for learning. When he died in 1997, he left most of his fortunes to establish the scholarship foundation.

A biological sciences concentrator graduating this spring, Krakauer is considering pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Studies at England’s Oxford University, before returning to the U.S. to pursue his degree in medicine. Krakauer’s specific interest in the medical field was awakened during a UNAIDS internship in Geneva last summer, where he was exposed to practicing medicine in underdeveloped environments.

“We had all sorts of people around us. Besides doctors, there was a lawyer and several non-medical staff,” Krakauer said. “I want to practice medicine in developing countries, and I hope to learn about the issues of medicine in underprivileged regions in the world, so as to lend a better perspective to my future work.”

Krakauer is heading to Oxford to study topics ranging from history to politics to economics and social anthropology. “American programs do not offer a Development Studies degree,” said Krakauer, who will reside in Oxford for two years.

In just its first year, the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is offered only to residents of Virginia, Maryland or the District of Columbia, or to applicants who have pursued college education there, since Cooke himself lived in that area. It is a competitive scholarship that seeks students with stellar academic achievement, leadership, public service, and critical thinking. Krakauer was one of 50 chosen from an applicant pool of 700 seniors.

“I had to work very hard for it, and it came at the end of a very long process,” Krakauer said.

A candidate for the Rhodes scholarship and a finalist for the Marshall scholarship earlier in the year, Krakauer felt rewarded for having won the Cooke scholarship and hopes to put the gift to good use.

“The scholarship is important because it gives people the freedom to pursue their goals without having to worry about the financial burden of studying,” Krakauer said.

Currently an assistant resident head in Hoover House in Max Palevsky East, Krakauer feels he has had a valuable learning experience at the University. Besides being involved in academics and intramural sports, he has also served as a tutor at Price Elementary School and a volunteer at La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

“Working in the underprivileged neighborhood has played a role in the way I want to direct my career in medicine,” Krakauer said. “I realized the reward of caring for the sick at the hospital, and at the elementary school, I realized the need for policy planning to help alleviate social inequalities as well as health crises.”

His experience working in an underprivileged neighborhood has encouraged him to become a physician and policy planner in what he calls the “under-resourced setting of a developing country,” and he hopes his Oxford degree will be effective in achieving his goal.

Therefore, he is postponing medical school. “I have not been to a developing country, but I hope to build a foundation of knowledge that will serve me better,” Krakauer said “The broader the perspective the physician brings to his work, the better.”

In the meantime, Krakauer looks forward to spending some time with his friends and family in Rockville, MD, after graduation. He credits his parents for his success, and he is filled with a “strong sense of gratitude.”

“America is a place where the Dream is still alive. The major barrier to achievement…is inequality of opportunity, a consequence of poverty. The poor suffer from inferior educational and health care systems,” Krakauer said. He plans to join in the effort to improve medical practice in impoverished regions by using this scholarship opportunity to the fullest.