Three West Virginia students finalists for Rhodes Scholarship

MORGANTOWN — Herewith, a trio of lessons on how to build a resume:
WVU students Virginia “Ginny” Thrasher, Andrea Pettit and Emma Harrison have already amassed a world of experience — even as they are still completing their degrees.
Thrasher won an Olympic gold medal in rifle competition at the Rio Summer Games in 2016.
Pettit spends the bulk of her days doing research in immunology and microbiology.
Harrison faces inmates daily at the notorious Hazelton federal penitentiary.
Degrees are what this story is definitely about.
Thrasher, Pettit and Harrison are broadening their experiences (and pursuit of degrees) even more this weekend in Chicago, where all three are finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship.
The scholarship that’s also a household name provides four years of study in Oxford, England, and the academic star-power that comes with it.
Rhodes scholars over the years have included a diverse array of recipients from all intellectual walks — and all walks, period.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was a Rhodes. So was former WVU President David Hardesty.
Hardesty was named in 1967. WVU has turned out 25 such scholars, dating back to 1904. The last one to date representing West Virginia’s flagship university was Carolyn Conner, in 1995.
This is the first time, however, in WVU’s 151-year history, that three of its students have advanced to the final 15 in the selection process.
The Rhodes committee will select two scholars from WVU after interviews wrap up Saturday.
Aiming (and missing) at figure skating
Thrasher, a biomedical engineering major from Springfield, Va., was an Olympic surprise in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She was a stalwart of the WVU Rifle Team but wasn’t expected to do much in Rio.
That changed with one pull of the trigger. She’s had Olympic aspirations since middle school, but not in the sport that garnered gold for her. What she wanted to do first was figure skating.
She discovered during deer-hunting sojourns with her father and grandfather that her brain was wired more to the hand-eye precision of air rifle.
Today, she wants to research that mind-body connection between performance and achievement.
She still has aspirations for another Olympic gold in 2020. If she’s named a Rhodes scholar this weekend, though, she’ll be at Oxford then — will that change anything?
“It just means I’ll be training in England,” she said, laughing.
Take me home (country roads)
Andrea Pettit’s roots in West Virginia, and at WVU, run deeper than the seams in a coal mine.
She’s the 21st person in her family to attend the university in Morgantown. She grew up here and graduated from Morgantown High School.
After medical school the immunology and microbiology major wants to practice medicine in rural West Virginia, focusing on the state’s traditional trends in chronic ill-health, including diabetes and heart disease.
Pettit would use her Rhodes scholarship studying the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, and how its practices and preventive measures could translate to care in West Virginia.
First, though, she said with a chuckle, she has to get through today. After her Rhodes interview, she’ll present her medical research at a conference across town.
“I’ll be just a little busy,” she said.
Prisoner of policy?
What’s the point, Emma Harrison asks, of paying your debt to society if you’re emotionally bankrupt when you get out?
Harrison, a Morgantown native with dual majors in political science and multidisciplinary studies, spends a lot of time thinking about the population of Americans currently living behind bars.
She makes eye contact with numbers of them every week at the Hazelton prison in Preston County, where she volunteers and teaches remedial classes.

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