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Senior receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Casey Kenny | Friday, March 19, 2010

Senior Ryan Lash was one of 29 American students recently awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, enabling him to pursue a master’s degree next year at the Univ-ersity of Cambridge.

Lash, a medieval studies and anthropology major, is the first Notre Dame student selected for this honor since the program was established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

More than 800 U.S. students applied for the highly competitive scholarship in 2009. According to the program’s Web site, scholarships are awarded to students “on the basis of a person’s intellectual ability, leadership capacity and desire to use their knowledge to contribute to society throughout the world by providing service to their communities and applying their talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others.”

These scholars must also have exceptional research skills and knowledge of how their research can be applied to global challenges.

Lash said he is excited about the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.

“The interdisciplinary program gives me the opportunity to continue studying what I am interested in without having to pick only one particular aspect of my interests,” Lash said. “I will study the language, history and archeology of medieval Britain and Scandinavia.”

Lash was encouraged to apply for the highly selective scholarship by several faculty members because of his impressive research skills and academic success.

“Ryan has blended his broad interests in the medieval world with specific interests in literature and material culture in sophisticated ways that belie his age and experience,” said Thomas Noble, professor and chair of the History Department and former director of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute, in a press release. “He combines intelligence, a taste for hard work and a disinterested love of learning and grace.”

According to the press release, Lash has fully utilized Notre Dame’s resources that support undergraduate research, field and international study. His projects include archaeological fieldwork at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, travel in Great Britain and Ireland for a research paper on medieval castle architecture in elite identity formation, study of medieval history, literature and archeology in Notre Dame’s Oxford program, as well as an upcoming research project at Bective Abbey in Ireland. As a result of these projects, he has also co-presented research papers at academic conferences in several countries.

Lash is quick to credit University advisors for their assistance in the application process.
“My faculty advisors were very helpful in encouraging me to think about what I really wanted to do,” he said. “They supported me and dissuaded me from thinking the scholarship was out of reach.”

Lash is looking forward to utilizing the many resources of the renowned University of Cambridge and hopes his work will contribute to a better appreciation of the relevance and influence of representations of history.

“I admit that medieval studies can’t help humanity in the same way that medical or scientific research might,” he said. “But my work has relevancy and will, I hope, contribute by allowing us to better appreciate the challenges, complexities and consequences of public representations of the past.”