Four accomplished undergraduate students and two recent graduates have been endorsed by WVU for nationally competitive scholarships.
Jillian Blair of Wheeling was endorsed for both the Marshall Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship.
Bethanny Prascik of Fairmont, Logan Riffey of Berkeley Springs and Gracan Tarley of Fairmont were endorsed for the Marshall Scholarship.
Azeem Khan of Charleston and Riley “Red” Klug of New Martinsville were endorsed for the Rhodes Scholarship.
Blair is a senior majoring in environmental and energy resources management with minors in sustainable design and geology. A leader on campus, she serves as the policy coordinator for the Student Government Association Executive Board and previously as a college senator and sustainability chair.
Interested in pursuing a career in sustainable business administration and circular economics, an emerging economic concept of having transparent supply chains, ethical labor and regenerative “cradle to cradle” consumerism habits, Blair believes the most effective way to change a broken system is to change the way the money moves through it.
“In the case of energy and economics, I try never to look at certain organizations engaged in environmentally jeopardizing industries as the enemies, but rather as a key player with valuable insight from where they’ve been and the mechanisms to help us move forward,” she said.
Both scholarship programs provide ample opportunities for Blair to expand her knowledge through degree programs and networking with alumni from all over the world.
As a Marshall Scholar, she would enroll in two one-year master’s programs. In year one, Blair would study renewable energy futures at Imperial College London and sustainable business leadership at University of York in year two. As part of the Rhodes Scholarship, she would study sustainability, enterprise and environment in year one with an automatic acceptance into an MBA for year two.
Both programs will also give her an opportunity to explore the world.
“I’ve lived in West Virginia my whole life,” Blair said. “While it will always be my home, I’d be foolish not to think that there is so much to learn from different people, landscapes, cultures and languages. And, if I think about it, there’s a real possibility that I will be the first person some people have met from West Virginia and that is so exciting to me.”
Prascik is a senior majoring in anthropology and dance with a minor in art history. She is treasurer of the WVU Anthropology Club and a member of the Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review editorial board.
Over the summer, Prascik spent four weeks in Italy as part of the San Gemini Preservation Studies Program, which involved the analysis, conservation and restoration of Etruscan and Roman pottery.
She also completed a 10-day intercession tour visiting important sites of the Renaissance, Medieval and Roman periods, including restoration labs of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence and the National Etruscan Museum in Rome.
Through her experiences, including conducting research at a Native American burial mound in Clarksburg, Prascik is working toward a career as a museum curator.
If selected for the Marshall Scholarship, she plans to pursue a dual master’s degree in principles of conversation at University College of London and care of collections from Cardiff University.
“I know the knowledge I will gain during my time in the United Kingdom will allow me to bring my education and research skills full circle and approach my research of Native American inhabitance in West Virginia with new perspectives,” she said.
Riffey graduated in August with degrees in psychology and biology with an emphasis in neuroscience. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in neuropsychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands while conducting research on the therapeutic potential and neural mechanisms of psychedelic drugs.
During his time at WVU, Riffey made his mark on campus through academics, leadership and service — including promoting better access to mental health resources for WVU students, leading WVU Active Minds and being part of the Student Government Association.
Invested in better understanding the neuroscience behind mental health and substance use disorders, Riffey ultimately hopes to combine research findings and effective education to advocate for lasting policy changes.
“The United Kingdom is a hub for psychedelic research with many institutions busy with uncovering just how and why psychedelics could be the most effective treatment for mental health disorders,” he said. “There are still so many unknowns about how they work and why they have been found to be better than conventional psychiatric medications, and that is among my motivations for pursuing a career in the field of psychedelic science.
I grew up surrounded by the results of poor psychiatric infrastructure, and the Marshall Scholarship can be the catalyst by which I can bring lasting change to those who struggle with their mental health and/or substance use,” Riffey added.
Tarley graduated in December 2022 with degrees in international studies and Russian studies and minors in geography and Slavic and Eastern European studies.
As a student, she had the opportunity to represent WVU as the head delegate at the Model United Nations, was awarded the Eberly College Outstanding Senior Award in Russian Studies and participated in the WVU Russian and East European Club.
If selected for the Marshall Scholarship, she plans to pursue two master’s degrees — one in diplomacy and global politics at the University of Westminster and the second in national security studies at King’s College London.
“Growing up in West Virginia, I faced the hardships of poor socioeconomic status and the Marshall Scholarship would afford me the opportunity to enhance my intellectual and personal growth, further develop intercultural communications, and amplify my field of expertise in an academic environment with the most dynamic and renowned programs and institutions in the world,” she said.
Recognizing the importance of diplomacy, Tarley aspires to serve as a foreign service officer with an interest in Russian and Eastern European security and diplomacy.
“I believe that now, more than ever, we must turn conflict into cooperation to ensure international peace and security, and I hope to gain the necessary tools and experiences needed for diplomatic negotiations and relations,” Tarley said.
Khan is a senior majoring in political science with dual minors in business cybersecurity and philosophy.
Earlier this year, he was awarded a Truman Scholarship based on his academic excellence, leadership and commitment to a career in public service.
If awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, Khan plans to pursue master’s degrees in criminology, criminal justice and public policy.
“Oxford is a globally recognized institution and community which has a proven record of being on the frontlines of solving the world’s most challenging problems,” he said. “I would like to try to contribute as best that I can to address some of these challenges.”
Khan believes these degrees would strengthen his perspective as a prospective lawyer who wants to help the areas across America that are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic is, in my view, one of the most important challenges of our lifetime,” he said. “I believe these degrees at Oxford would allow me to study trends and strategies across the world to obtain an in-depth understanding of this global problem and identify solutions to help the millions across the globe who are suffering. This unparalleled opportunity would help me become a much stronger aspiring lawyer and community problem solver.”
Klug is a senior double major in art history and anthropology with minors in history, Native American studies and political science. Klug is also pursuing the Global Mountaineer Certificate.
Klug participated in two summer study abroad programs, including the San Gemini Preservation Studies Program in Italy and the Blue Creek Maya Research Program in Belize.
If awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, Klug plans to complete a master’s degree in Latin American studies at Oxford University with the intention of gaining the knowledge and understanding necessary to obtain a doctorate and a teaching position at a university.
“I would like to eventually become a collegiate professor of modern Latin American studies, conducting research and offering specialized courses on contentious politics in South America,” she said. “My main goal is to be able to continue researching the topics that I find myself most interested in.”
Klug believes participating in the Rhodes Scholarship would allow her to learn more about herself and look more introspectively into her academic future.
“The entire application process has allowed me to consider all my options, think about all my interests and ascertain what the future of my academic career holds,” Klug said.
Each candidate received support from the ASPIRE Office which assists students applying for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships.