Kansas University student Kelsey Murrell got the word Saturday night that she will be joining an elite group whose alumni include world leaders, social activists and noted scholars. She is one of 32 people nationwide who have been chosen to receive a Rhodes scholarship, which will fund her studies at Oxford University in England for one or two years beginning in 2012.
Murrell traveled to St. Louis on Friday and was interviewed for the scholarship Saturday. A few hours after the announcement, she said the honor hadn’t sunk in.
“I feel incredibly honored and thankful — and really, just speechless,” Murrell said by phone from St. Louis.
Murrell is a senior majoring in creative writing and English literature, and plans on studying migration studies and refugee and forced migration studies at Oxford, according to a KU news release from last week. Murrell has written plays at KU, and aspires to teach literature at a university. Her plays have been honored by local and national festivals, including the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and other organizations, and at KU she founded the Contemporary Student Alternative Theatre, which encourages budding playwrights on campus.
She is currently working on her honors thesis, which looks at refugee stories and the refugee experience.
Murrell graduated from Kearney High School, in Kearney, Mo., a town of about 9,000 people. She said growing up in a small town has informed her plays, which are often set in small, rural communities.
Murrell is the 26th Rhodes scholar to come from KU. According to Jack Martin of KU’s office of public affairs, that’s more than all other universities in the state combined.
“I’m so thankful for all the people that have made this possible for me, especially the educators who have made a world of difference,” Murrell said.