U of A Students Neighbour and Smith Selected as Rhodes Scholarship Finalists

Danielle Neighbour and Jake Smith.
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Danielle Neighbour and Jake Smith.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas honors students Danielle Neighbour and Jacob Smith have been selected as finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship — the oldest and best-known award for graduate school in the United States.

Rhodes Scholars are elected for two years of study at Oxford University, with the possibility of renewal for a third year. Both students will interview in Chicago on Nov. 19.

More than 1,500 undergraduates apply for the 32 Rhodes Scholarships each year.

"The competition is intense," said University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. "Having two finalists selected is a real testament to their extraordinary accomplishments and to the tireless mentoring they receive from faculty. Both Danielle and Jake have taken full advantage of the exceptional opportunities we have to offer on this campus, including study abroad and undergraduate research. We wish them the best in these competitions, but more importantly, in what will certainly be distinguished professional careers.”


Neighbour, an Honors College Fellow from Lenexa, Kansas, is a senior civil engineering major in the College of Engineering. Her interest in expanding access to clean drinking water has taken her across the globe. This spring, Neighbour was one of four engineering students nationwide to be selected as a 2016 Truman Scholar. She has also been named a finalist for the prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship, which funds graduate study for one year at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She will interview for the Schwarzman Scholarship, which was modeled on the Rhodes, on Nov. 7 in New York City.

Neighbour plans to pursue a career in improving access to clean drinking water in developing nations.

“I am humbled to have been named a finalist for both the Rhodes and the Schwarzman Scholarships. The opportunity to represent the University of Arkansas on this scale is an honor,” Neighbour said. “I am incredibly grateful for the guidance and support from the College of Engineering faculty and from my scholarship advisors, and for the financial support from the Honors College that has done so much to help broaden my experience. I look forward to meeting other finalists and to having this opportunity to discuss water issues with the distinguished selection committees.”

Truman, Rhodes and Schwarzman Scholars are all selected in part on the basis of their potential to be leaders. Academic accomplishment and a commitment to serving others are also key components. Neighbour is the first U of A student to interview for the Schwarzman Scholarship.

“Danielle Neighbour will without question become a global leader,” said Micah Hale, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering. “She has a passion for making potable water available to everyone. She knows this will require an intimate knowledge of environmental engineering, policy-making, and international development, and she applied for these two distinguished awards in order to bring these various aspects of community development together. She has been preparing for global engagement since she arrived on our campus. We are very proud of her and wish her well in both competitions.”

As an undergraduate, Neighbour helped install point-of-use drinking water technologies in southeast Ecuador, where she spearheaded the construction of an Amazonian community’s first permanent potable water source. In Belize, she developed an education program about a recently installed water tower for the residents of an inland village. Neighbour has also traveled to Vietnam to help lead water sanitation and hygiene presentations for elementary school students.

At the University of Arkansas, she has assumed leadership roles in many organizations. She served as secretary of the American Society of Civil Engineers, where she helped organize student events and service projects, and authored a technical paper on engineering ethics in developing nations for the national society competition. She also received a grant from the National Science Foundation to pursue research as an undergraduate.


Smith, from Paragould, is a pre-med honors kinesiology major in the College of Education and Health Professions. He was a member of the Razorback baseball team as a freshman and hoped to eventually pitch for the team, but an injury shifted his career focus from athletics to medicine. He now plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“Being selected as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist is a great opportunity and an amazing honor. Studying musculoskeletal science as well as public policy at Oxford would enhance my career path, and I hope I have the opportunity to do it,” Smith said. “I would not be here without the faculty and staff who have supported and invested in me throughout my time at the University of Arkansas. I hope to be an exceptional ambassador for the university and the state of Arkansas during this competition and beyond it.”

In the spring of 2015, Smith was selected by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to represent the state’s students on a statewide taskforce created to examine issues surrounding federal Common Core standards. He worked under Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and alongside a group of business leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders to examine and discuss how to best allocate federal resources at all education levels.

He has also served on the Executive Board of the Student Alumni Association. Smith is currently the vice president of development on the Inter-Fraternal Council, and he is the Associated Student Government’s director of special events.

“Jake Smith is an outstanding student in the College of Education and Health Professions, but what singles him out and makes him Rhodes-worthy is his abiding desire to give back and his ability to engage others in helping him change lives for the better,” said Mike Miller, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “He plans to live and work in Arkansas after graduate school, and he will clearly make an important difference in the state, but he is also globally minded as his volunteer work makes clear, and I have no doubt that he will make a difference in many communities throughout his career.”

Smith is the founder on a non-profit organization called 1and1 Ministries, which combines his love of baseball and his desire to assist underserved communities. The organization promotes productive engagement among at-risk teenagers in Nicaragua and helps them bring about change in their own communities. His goal is to engage young people in sports activities and encourage leadership development at the same time. Smith has worked extensively to bring local leaders into his non-profit, finding Nicaraguan baseball players and craftsmen to assist in teaching and providing materials for the program.

He has also volunteered as a health coach with the Washington Regional Care Partners. He conducted research with Dr. Chris Dougherty, studying patient outcomes with a new orthopedic devise that performs an all inside meniscus repair. The research was later published in the Sports Review Journal.

“I have had the good fortune to have both Danielle Neighbour and Jake Smith in my Leadership Principles and Practices course, a course designed for graduate students, but a limited number of undergraduates are allowed to enroll,” said John White, Distinguished Professor of industrial engineering and former University of Arkansas chancellor. “Teaching students who are so capable and so committed to serving others really makes me feel good about our future despite the serious problems we face. Danielle and Jake are terrific representatives of the University of Arkansas. They are thoughtful and passionate leaders who are preparing to tackle big issues. They would both be notable Scholars, but regardless of the outcome, they will make us proud for years to come.”

University of Arkansas students who are interested in applying for scholarships like the Schwarzman should contact the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards at awards@uark.edu.

About the Rhodes Scholarship: The award was created after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902 and is intended to bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. The first American scholars were elected in 1904, and Neil Carothers of the University of Arkansas was among that first cohort. The University of Arkansas has had 10 Rhodes Scholars, the most recent being Anna Terry in 2001.

About the Schwarzman Scholarship: Launched in 2016 by Steven A. Schwarzman, the scholarship allows for post-graduate study at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Every year 200 scholarships are awarded to students from the United States, China, and other countries. Approximately 90 U.S. students are named Scholars each year, while 40 scholarships are awarded to Chinese students and 70 to students from around the world.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Suzanne McCray, director
Office of Nationally Competitive Awards
479-575-4883, smccray@uark.edu

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations
479-575-3583, voorhies@uark.edu


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