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UI Student Interviews as Finalist for Rhodes Scholarship

December 20, 2017

This article was written by Taylor Nadauld and published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Read the original article here.


University of Idaho undergraduate student Zachary Lien identifies in several unique ways — as a queer man, an ex-Mormon, an apostate, a student and now, as a finalist for the class of 2018 Rhodes Scholars.

The 21-year-old senior and Boise native was one of two students on the Palouse to interview as a finalist for the prestigious award this November. Though Lien did not receive the scholarship in the end, he said it felt good to know the opportunity went to "phenomenal" people.

The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded to just 32 students across the U.S. each year, earning them a full ride to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. For many students around the world, it is the ultimate academic goal and honor.

As Holly LaHann, distinguished scholarships coordinator and Rhodes representative for the U of I, explained, "This is, like, the oldest, arguably most well-known, most prestigious scholarship that there is."

But as a student from Idaho looking for any chance he could get to pay for graduate school, Lien knew he saw the Rhodes in a different light than his fellow competitors from Yale, Harvard and New York universities, who yearly compete against their own peers, host mock cocktail parties and hold practice interviews alongside past winners.

"You say you're a Rhodes Scholar and it quite literally can just open doors and can really mean a lot in a career," Lien said. "And I knew that was what a lot of other people thought about it, and for me, I saw the resources that it could offer, and I was really straightforward about that."

Lien estimates he spent between 20 and 30 hours putting together his resume, collecting seven letters of recommendation, garnering a required and preliminary endorsement from the U of I and preparing other essential documents to be submitted for application.

The last time a U of I student received the scholarship was in 1989.

Though Lien did receive an endorsement from the U of I, signed by U of I President Chuck Staben, and compiled a hefty resume with lists upon lists of academic honors and volunteer experience, Lien's real chance to shine came in a required personal statement, not to exceed 1,000 words, in which he was asked to describe his interests, his areas of proposed study and his reason for wanting to study at Oxford in the first place.

Read more of the story at

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at