Jason Oaks '09 Awarded Beinecke Scholarship
Early Friday morning, a little over a month ago, Jason Oaks '09 opened his e-mail and found a message with the word“Beinecke” in the subject line. His heart skipped a beatâ€”or 10.
“After all,” he says,“$34,000 was on the line.”
But the news was good: Oaks had been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship, established in 1971 to support the graduate education of exceptional students in the arts, humanities or social sciences.
Graduate school was Oaks' main impetus to apply for the Beinecke in the first place.“But more than that,” he says,“[Dean of Academic Affairs] Phil Bean always tells students that regardless of the outcome, the process of applying for scholarships is as important as actually winning them.” Oaks had always believed in the importance of studying China and its history, but writing an essay for the Beinecke application propelled him to put into words exactly why this was so.
“I was forced to place myself and my work in a much wider context, and figure out how I fit into the â€˜bigger picture,'” he says.“What are my plans for the next five or 10 years? How will I use what I've learned here at Haverford to help others? How will I leave my mark on this world and make a difference?” Oaks can answer those questions much better now than he could six months ago, largely thanks to the Beinecke application process.
“Clarity of purpose,” he adds,“is perhaps the greatest award this scholarship has given me.”
The application process for the Beinecke took place in two rounds. First, Haverford, along with 100 leading colleges and universities, was invited to nominate one candidate for the Beinecke, and the Committee on College Honors chose Oaks to represent Haverford. Oaks first applied early in the fall of 2007:“I was actually in China at the time studying abroad, so maybe it inspired me to write a decent essay.” After being chosen to advance to the national round, Oaks rewrote his essay four times and met with Phil Bean to discuss the application and make corrections.“I know Dean Bean and the professors who wrote my letters of recommendation also worked hard on their respective parts, and I'm extremely grateful to them,” he says.
“Among the other 20 winners of this highly prestigious scholarship were students from Harvard, Penn, Columbia, Yale, Chicago, Dartmouth, NYU, Amherst, and Carleton, so Jason finds himself in very good company and most deservedly so,” says Bean.“He is not only very bright, scholarly, and actively engaged with the world beyond our campus, but modest in the best sense, neither boastful nor apologetic about his considerable attainments. In these and other regards, Jason seems to exemplify what Haverford seeks in its students.”
Oaks is most excited by the fact that the Beinecke will allow him to further pursue his passion for modern Chinese history, in which he plans to do his senior thesis research as well as concentrate in graduate school.“A firm grasp of history is absolutely necessary before one can study Chinese economics, political science, and language, and I've come to really appreciate history's focus on broad trends as a foundation for understanding any questions about China today,” he says.
This summer, Oaks won't be taking any breaks from his scholarly pursuits. He'll live at Haverford and serve as a research assistant for Professor of History Paul Smith.“I'm helping him to prepare a class on research methods for East Asian history,” he says,“a project that will take me all over Philadelphia, from the Haverford Special Collections to museums downtown.”
Oaks will use his scholarship money to pay tuition for graduate school in Chinese history; he hopes to attend in the fall of 2009.