Mizzou Student Jaclyn Herr Inspires Others as Rhodes Finalist

By Melissa Coon | Published on Feb. 28, 2013

The process of pursuing a fellowship can be daunting. While applying and interviewing for the Rhodes Trust Scholarship, Jaclyn Herr says she gained an “even-worse-than- before addiction to coffee and maybe some minor hair loss.”

More importantly, she gained a better sense of self-confidence.

Herr, a native of House Springs, Mo., where she graduated from Seckman High School in 2009, is majoring in English and Classics, with emphases in American Romanticism and Ancient Greek language and literature, respectively.

She was a finalist for the Rhodes Trust Scholarship, which provides full financial support for students wishing to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Although Herr was not one of the 32 students selected to receive the scholarship, she is thankful for the experience she gained through the application and interview process.

“I would have never applied for the scholarship had Tim Parshall (director of MU’s Fellowships Office) not contacted me,” she says. “I come from a very low-income, uneducated background and never really saw myself as a Rhodes Scholar until he told me that I owed it to myself to at least apply.”

Parshall encouraged Herr to apply for the program after David Schenker, associate professor of Classical Studies, recommended Herr to Parshall as a possible candidate for fellowships.

“I’ve only had one or two other students in my 20 or so years of teaching at MU who could match her academic brilliance,” Schenker says. “What truly sets Jaclyn apart is her energy, drive and initiative in projects outside of class.”

Herr is the president of Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honor Society and a member of the English Department Undergraduate Studies Committee and Leaders Board. In addition, she serves as a Residential Life Peer Advisor where she has taught a Freshman Interest Group whose focus was the ancient world.

“Through it all—in the midst of senior year classes, all her leadership responsibilities, graduate school applications and Rhodes process—Jaclyn maintained an even demeanor,” Schenker says. “Usually I have to remind students heading off to an interview to be themselves, but I don’t have to do that with Jaclyn. She never tries to be anything other than herself—and that’s good, since she’s pretty impressive.”

The Fellowships Office works with students who are eligible for nationally competitive fellowships, grants, and scholarships.

“Jaclyn has been applying to graduate programs in the classics and there is no question that her Rhodes, along with the Marshall Scholarships, preparations made those graduate applications much easier, in large part because the fellowship applications forced her to focus on her true interests—what she wants to pursue as a scholar and teacher,” Parshall says.

Along with meeting with Parshall, Herr received guidance from College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Ted Tarkow as she revised her application and prepared for her interview. Tarkow is the official adviser for the Rhodes scholarship at MU.

Herr hopes her story will motivate other first generation college students to pursue similar opportunities in the future.

“Don’t let statistics determine your successes in life,” she says. “You owe it to yourself to pursue any desire you have, even if the odds say you don’t stand a chance.”