Innocents Abroad: On the University of Missouri’s Mark Twain Fellowship

Mark Twain Fellowship Winners

In one of his final actions as Chancellor, Brady Deaton in November 2013 approved funding for five years, at a maximum of $50,000 per academic year, to support one highly qualified MU graduate to take on post-baccalaureate studies outside of North America. 2017 recipient Brendan Marsh (Physics and Mathematics, ’17) follows Zach Parolin (Journalism ’12), Jessica Anania (Journalism, Political Science & Psychological Sciences ’15) and Helen Bass (Economics ’16) as recipients of the Mark Twain Fellowship who have earned advanced degrees while gaining international perspectives and developing contacts and networks in their respective fields with professionals from many different countries. Because Chancellor Deaton recognized the imperative for deeper global experiences and connections, he made a commitment to support stellar Mizzou graduates in their pursuit of educational opportunities abroad.

To qualify for the Mark Twain Fellowship, successful candidates must demonstrate a high level of academic achievement, propose a meritorious course of study, show a commitment to service (both within MU and beyond), and possess personal integrity. In addition, candidates must have applied—but not be selected—for a major nationally competitive international fellowship (such as the Rhodes, Marshall, or Mitchell scholarships or a Fulbright Study/Research Grant). Each of these awards is highly competitive, and many worthy applicants are necessarily passed over. Indeed, each year only about 150 candidates from across the United States will be chosen for a Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Churchill, or Schwarzman. By offering the Mark Twain Fellowship, MU has made it clear that the university wishes to attract and support the strongest students possible, students whom we believe capable of making significant contributions in their fields. A full academic year abroad at little to no personal expense could turn an educational dream into reality for a student who otherwise might have to settle. Recipients of the Mark Twain Fellowship have the University of Missouri to thank for a key that unlocks their potential as international leaders. These alumni will remain loyal to Mizzou for life, and their achievements, due in part to the Twain Fellowship, will bring further distinction to the University.

Helen Bass, Jessica Anania and Zach Parolin have traveled different paths, and their futures remain necessarily and appropriately unfixed, even as they have completed their Mark Twain Fellowships: No longer innocents abroad, they continue to develop, to learn, to build on their Mizzou foundations.

Brendan Marsh will soon leave for Cambridge (having just competed in the World Duathlon Championships in Canada, placing 10th in the 20-24 age group and third among Team USA athletes). What Brendan will discover about himself in England we can only guess, but, if the experiences of the first three Mark Twain Fellows indicate anything, Brendan will meet the academic challenges, make new and lasting friendships and professional connections with scholars from around the globe, and push onward to make his own mark.

As Brendan told me, “Perhaps no university on Earth is more deeply rooted in physics than Cambridge, academic home to the real Isaac Newton, who famously said, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’” According to Brendan, his “attending Part III of the Mathematical Tripos … is equivalent to befriending the giants of modern physics, and my chance to unravel the next breakthrough in physics will be almost entirely thanks to Mizzou and the Mark Twain Fellowship, but it doesn’t feel as if I’m leaving—I will never forget where I came from. Mizzou will be with me wherever I go.”

Brendan Marsh
Brendan Marsh
2017 Mark Twain Fellowship Recipient
Helen Bass
Helen Bass
2016 Mark Twain Fellowship Recipient
Jessica Anania
Jessica Anania
2015 Mark Twain Fellowship Recipient
Zach Parolin
Zach Parolin
2014 Mark Twain Fellowship Recipient