Alexander Peeples, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior, and Shauna Rust, a 2016 graduate, have been named recipients of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which supports graduate studies in Ireland.
Peeples and Rust were two of 12 Americans selected Nov. 18 for the award, which provides tuition, accommodations, a living expenses stipend and an international travel stipend for one year. They are UNC-Chapel Hill’s sixth and seventh Mitchell Scholars since the program began in 2001.
“Being named a Mitchell Scholar is an exceptional achievement and we are incredibly proud of both Alexander and Shauna for receiving this outstanding honor,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Both students have shown their dedication to academics and giving back to our campus and local communities, stepping stones to success Alexander can use as he works to advance the field of education law in the developing world with a particular focus on our most vulnerable populations and Shauna as she works to create a healthier world particularly for those most in need.”
Peeples, 21, from Mobile, Ala., is the son of Steven and Larene Peeples. He graduated from the Alabama School of Math and Science in 2014. Peeples will graduate in May 2018 with majors in history and political science and a minor in African studies.
Peeples came to UNC-Chapel Hill as a Carolina Covenant Scholar and as part of the Bonner Leaders Program, a sustained service program designed to engage students in addressing community-identified needs. Peeples serves as co-president of the Campus Y and is a columnist for The Daily Tar Heel. He also works for The Marian Cheek Jackson Center, which serves the Northside neighborhood of Chapel Hill. Peeples holds a leadership role at Heavenly Groceries food bank, and has helped raise over $45,000 for The Jackson Center.
“I’m honored to be selected as a Mitchell Scholar,” said Peeples. “So much of who I am is a result of UNC and the spirit of service created by spaces like the Campus Y. I look forward to a year in Ireland and I hope UNC continues to be a university where a radical commitment to service and advocacy is fostered.”
Peeples developed a passion for East Africa during an African studies seminar in his first semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, and he has traveled to Tanzania to research their education law. Peeples plans to use his time in Ireland to study international justice at Maynooth University. Ultimately, Peeples plans to work in a global education think tank to improve education law in the developing world and among especially vulnerable populations.
“Beyond his remarkable academic achievements, Alexander consistently dedicates himself to serving the needs of the socially deprived—both locally and internationally,” said Inger Brodey, director of Carolina’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “I have confidence that the Mitchell scholarship will take Alexander to new heights and allow him to reach even greater numbers of people through educational reform policy.”
Rust, 23, from Charlotte, is the daughter of Mark and Janine Lazar Rust. She graduated from Myers Park High School in 2012. She graduated from the Gillings School of Global Public Health with a bachelor’s degree in health policy and management in 2016. Rust currently works in Washington, D.C., as special assistant and public health analyst for the Health Resources and Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
“It is incredibly humbling to be selected as a Mitchell Scholar and I am so grateful to my mentors at UNC, especially in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, who have been tremendous supporters of my career in health policy and public health,” said Rust. “I am excited to study how Ireland is reforming their healthcare system and to bring these lessons back with me, as I seek to make a difference in the U.S. health system throughout my career.”
At UNC-Chapel Hill, Rust was an Honors Carolina student and a Buckley Public Service Scholar for her commitment to public service. Rust served as co-president of the Campus Y and co-chaired Tar Heel TABLE, which hosts food drives to alleviate child hunger. In her senior year, Rust was selected as the 2015-2016 Roosevelt Institute Emerging Fellow for Health Care, the highest ranking national health policy fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, representing thousands of undergraduate students involved in this movement through white papers and editorials, including one in The New York Times. Rust also completed an honors thesis about the implications of tobacco marketing.
Rust plans to pursue a master’s degree in health policy at University College Dublin in Ireland. Rust ultimately wants to be at the forefront of creating a healthier nation, whether as an elected official or a public servant.
“The Mitchell committee foresees that Shauna will be in an excellent position to shape public health policy in the U.S. in the coming decades,” said Brodey. “A Mitchell Scholarship will enable her to do so from a perspective enriched by experience of public health policy in Ireland as well as the U.S.”
The nationwide competition attracted 326 applicants for 12 Mitchell Scholarships. Recipients are chosen on the basis of academic distinction, leadership and service and spend a year of post-graduate study at institutions of higher learning in Ireland.
The Mitchell Scholarship program is administered by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. It is also funded by corporate, government and private entities and by the participating Irish universities. The program honors former U.S. Senate Majority leader George Mitchell for his leadership.