Ben Lundin will study the political influence of religious movements. Adrian Johnston ’06 wants to research how developing countries can improve gains from international trade.
Lundin and Johnston, both Morehead Scholars, will study at Oxford University in England as UNC recipients of 2007 Rhodes Scholarships.
Lundin, a senior from Nashville, Tenn., and a religious studies major, plans to use the scholarship to earn a master’s degree in international relations, including a thesis on religion in global conflict.
Johnston, of Toronto, graduated in May with degrees in economics and philosophy. He was one of 11 Rhodes recipients who are Canadian. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in international relations, researching how developing countries can pursue institutional reforms to improve themselves through international trade.
Lundin’s and Johnston’s success marks the third time that two UNC candidates have received the Rhodes in the same year. They are the 40th and 41st UNC students to be named Rhodes Scholars since the program began in 1902. This is Carolina’s fifth year in a row with a Rhodes recipient. Last year, Carolina led its public university peers in the number of students winning distinguished scholarships, including the Rhodes.
Worldwide, about 85 Rhodes Scholars are selected annually in 14 jurisdictions. Individuals up to age 24 may apply if they have the endorsement of the university from which they graduated.
Perhaps the world’s most prestigious award for graduate study, the scholarship funds all expenses for two to three years at Oxford, averaging $45,000 per year in value.
“Eventually, I would like to develop my interests in religious dialogue through a research professorship in religious and ethnic conflict resolution,” Lundin said. “These are some of today’s most pressing issues, and I could pass my passion on to the next generation of researchers and public servants in this developing field.”
The Morehead funds four summer enrichment experiences for its scholars. One of them changed Lundin’s life.
Previously, he said, “I left for college with my mind made up that religion was a joke without a place in the serious world.”
But the summer after his freshman year, the Morehead sent Lundin to intern with a human rights group involved with prisons in Peru. There he interviewed a man accused of being a member of the Shining Path terrorist group.
The prisoner seemed near despair, Lundin wrote in his Rhodes application. “But what struck me most was his conviction that faith had kept him alive in isolation. . Peru was my glimpse of faith’s powers of inspiration and sustenance in the lives of believers.”
Back at Carolina, Lundin took an honors seminar about religious ideals, chose to major in religious studies and eventually became a teaching assistant for a freshman honors course in the subject.
In his sophomore year, Lundin had begun to observe religion’s role in national debates about prayer in public schools, reproductive rights and conflict in the Middle East.
This led him to found Carolina Crossfire, a student group dedicated to discussing difficult religious questions, personal and political. The group sponsored a public dialogue by an agnostic professor and a local pastor, asking what they considered to be attractive and unattractive aspects of organized Christianity.
“One might call Ben Lundin a public intellectual, particularly interested in issues where controversies loom between reason and faith, or between differing political views relating to fixed religious positions,” said George Lensing, director of the UNC Office of Distinguished Scholarships.
“He thrives on creating dialogues between those differing voices and adding his own. Part philosopher, part theologian and part social activist, he will undoubtedly play a prominent and mediating role in this unfolding new century, where religious differences define our own history as never before.”
Last fall, the Teagle Foundation of New York held a national conference for presidents, chaplains and professors of major universities to discuss religion on campuses. Lundin was one of four students and the only UNC representative invited to speak.
This fall, through Carolina Students Taking Academic Responsibility Through Teaching, Lundin is designing an undergraduate course on the theory of creation by intelligent design.
Falling between evolution and the Biblical story of creation, intelligent design holds that some aspects of the natural world resulted from an intelligent cause rather than from unguided natural processes. Lundin will teach the course next semester, encouraging students to critically examine and debate the concept.
“The syllabus likely will include visits from vocal advocates and critics of the intelligent design movement,” he said.
C-START is open only to outstanding seniors, and Lundin fits the description. He has a cumulative grade point average of 3.98, has made the dean’s list every semester and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s highest undergraduate honor society, as a junior.
Besides sustaining academic achievement, Rhodes Scholars also are expected to demonstrate physical vigor. Morehead Scholars at Carolina must complete outdoor leadership courses the summer before their freshman year. Lundin’s came in the form of a backpacking course in Alaska, where he learned wilderness survival, navigation and leadership skills.
He has started as midfielder all four years in UNC club lacrosse and this year is a player-coach for the team. His sophomore year, Lundin coached a local middle school lacrosse team.
Lundin’s activities have included serving on the UNC Honor Court his freshman year and teaching English to Spanish-speaking UNC employees for three years, having become nearly fluent in Spanish while in Peru.
He helped expand the latter program to an off-campus UNC facility, recruited tutors and supervised dozens of pairs of tutors and employees. Lundin also helped teach an honors section of “Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition,” facilitating service-learning internships for all 20 of his students.
But it is primarily in religious studies that Lundin hopes to make meaningful contributions, he said. “The next generation of academics in the field of religion must explore its role in global conflict and develop new ways of discussing that role with the wider public.”
Working toward reducing conflict between former rebels and soldiers in central Africa helped Johnston win a Rhodes.
In Burundi from July through October, Johnston worked for an organization that provided conflict management training to leaders in the country’s peace process, “using the same negotiation theory that I studied in a graduate-level course at UNC.” He researched the impact of the training on the Burundian Army, formed through the integration of Hutu rebels and Tutsi-dominated government forces. Historically, the two ethnic groups have committed genocide against each other.
Johnston’s first visit to Burundi, in 2003, was decidedly less official. That summer’s Morehead experience took him to Tanzania to evaluate conditions in a refugee camp. The camp was home to Burundians who had fled the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in their own country.
“I documented refugee accounts of serious health and safety problems, including malnutrition,” Johnston said. “World Food Program rations had been sharply reduced because of declining financial support from the international community. Consequently, many refugees were repatriating before safety permitted. In their estimation, life in the camp had become worse than the risks of return.” He accompanied them back across the border to their native land.
On his next Morehead summer, Johnston researched city governments in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris and Brussels, noting their best practices – including programs on homelessness and affordable housing – and recommended those practices to officials back home in Toronto.
At Carolina, Johnston was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Golden Fleece, an honor society recognizing extraordinary contributions to the University. He worked with the Student Attorney General’s office and UNC’s service-learning program, for which he participated in and organized fall break trips to help the homeless in Washington, D.C., and Outer Banks residents recovering from hurricanes.
“This young man has already established himself as a research-scholar, a mediator, a diplomat and a deeply compassionate servant to the needs of those whom the larger society appears at times to overlook,” Lensing said.
“It is a thrill to see Adrian’s hard work and initiative rewarded with a Rhodes Scholarship,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “I worked with Adrian last year when he was student body vice president and chaired my student advisory committee. He has a bright future ahead.”
Johnston said he hopes that “the privilege of an Oxford education [will] greatly enhance my future career in international economic diplomacy, advocating for structures of power that serve vulnerable communities on a global scale.”
Oxford alumnus, diamond entrepreneur and English statesman Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) provided for the scholarships in his will, defining selection criteria as literary and scholastic achievement; physical vigor; truth, courage and devotion to duty; protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; moral force of character and instincts to lead.