2023 Bobby Jones Scholars selected for study in Scotland

Four outstanding Emory College seniors will study in Scotland next year on topics ranging from anthropology to peacebuilding as part of the Robert T. Jones Scholarships.

Carly Colen, Balwant-Amrit Singh, Ben Thomas and Alicia Yin join more than 150 previous Emory students known as Bobby Jones Scholars who have traveled for a year of study at the University of St Andrews. The two alternates for the 2023-24 Bobby Jones Scholars are Leah Woldai and Iris Chen.

Emory has hosted an equal number of St Andrews students as part of the scholarship exchange started in 1976 in honor of the legendary amateur golfer and scholar who attended Emory's School of Law.

The prestigious program honors the best representatives from each university, with an emphasis on academic excellence, exemplary character and integrity. 

“This year’s applicant pool gave us an unusually diverse — in every sense — pool of outstanding applicants. We had applicants with differing academic interests, varied experiences abroad, divergent leadership roles and wide-ranging backgrounds and origins,” says Joanne Brzinski, Emory College senior associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the Bobby Jones Program.

“The scholars selected represent the diversity of academic and extracurricular experiences at Emory,” Brzinski adds. “We are happy to welcome Carly, Balwant, Ben and Alicia as Bobby Jones Scholars, and as members of the Bobby Jones community.”

While the students are free to take courses without seeking a degree, all four scholars plan to pursue master’s degrees that complement and expand their Emory studies.

Meet the 2023 Bobby Jones Scholars

Carly Colen

Described by one recommender as someone who “walks the walk of her values,” Colen plans to pursue a master’s in peacebuilding and mediation that builds on her study at Emory as a political science major with an ethics minor.

Colen’s goal is to tackle rampant polarization in American politics, particularly with respect to voting rights, through a career in public policy.

An Illinois native who had long been interested in political advocacy, Colen saw the need for voter education in Georgia at her first Wonderful Wednesday at Emory.

Working with Emory’s nonpartisan Fair Fight U, where she is now president, she helped build a student vote coalition to unite students with a range of backgrounds and interests around voting rights and civic engagement.

Colen also researched the link between polarization, federalism and policy as an undergraduate research fellow at Emory’s Center for Law and Social Science and worked in the field as an intern with several political campaigns and, most recently, at the ACLU of Georgia’s Voter Access Project.

On campus, Colen served on the board of the Young Democrats at Emory, played for four years on the Club Ultimate Frisbee Team, worked as the news podcast producer at the Emory Wheel and was a committee member at Emory Hillel. She also was an actor and board member in Lenaia, Emory’s student-run playwriting festival, for four years.

At St Andrews, Colen plans to join the Political Institute of Action Research, a student-run local think tank, and the student-run arts festival, On The Rocks.

Balwant Singh

Singh, an Oxford continuee from Massachusetts with a major in neuroscience and behavioral biology (NBB), plans to continue his academic work by pursuing a master’s of research in neuroscience.

The program will support Singh’s career plans to become both a research scientist and a medical doctor. Being a first-generation Latinx college student has made him personally aware of the significance of representation in both patient care and lab work. It also helps drive his commitment to leadership and peer support.

A recipient of the James E. Varner Scholarship and 100 Senior Honorary, Singh has worked as a mentor with the QuestBridge Scholars Network and the Pre-Health Advising Office since his first year at Oxford. He served as a medical scribe and ambassador in the Emergency Department at Emory University Hospital, where he documented for providers and trained new scribes.

He also has worked as a learning assistant for the Department of Quantitative Theory and Methods and as a teaching assistant for an NBB neurochemistry course. One recommender noted that Singh’s NBB presentations elevated student understanding so effectively that they will be added as lectures in future classes.

Singh demonstrated similar leadership in multiple research projects. After working in an Emory lab focused on novel cancer therapies, he found his passion for understanding neurological disorders in a neuromuscular disease lab at Massachusetts General Hospital.

He proposes to advance that interest at St Andrews with a project to assess an under-researched area of the hippocampus involved in the formation of memories. The program also will allow him to work as a student volunteer, teaching health to schoolchildren through the Teddy Bear Hospital Society.

Ben Thomas

A double major in comparative literature and political science, Thomas completed enough coursework that he could add a Russian major, were it allowed.

Thomas, a Robert W. Woodruff Scholar from Ohio, plans to apply all those skills — along with his knowledge of Russian and German — in pursuit of a master’s degree in comparative literature focused on East German and Soviet film at St Andrews. Relatedly, he is researching early Soviet children's literature and fairy tales for his honors thesis.

One recommender noted that Thomas’ work reflects an ongoing effort to seek “the most self-challenging, most self-transformational paths” for himself. It also highlights his ability to infuse history, politics and language into his skills as a writer and literary scholar. Already, six of his essays and translations have been accepted for publication, and he has twice presented on early Soviet literature at the American Comparative Literature Association annual conference.

Thomas honed those abilities on campus as chair of the Emory Wheel editorial board, managing editor of the Emory Undergraduate Research Journal and research fellow at Emory’s Center for Law and Social Sciences. He also served as an IDEAS Fellow, constructing and helping to teach four interdisciplinary “sidecar” courses to fellow undergraduates.

Off campus, Thomas served as a conflict resolution intern at The Carter Center, a research intern at Plympton Literary Studio and a policy intern at the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Thomas plans to engage in the German and Russian Societies at St Andrews while he continues his academic work. He also hopes to create an informal running group with the university’s hillwalking group and to join JazzWorks, an informal society of jazz musicians on campus, as a trombonist.

Alicia Yin

Yin, a biology major from New York, plans to pursue a master’s of research in anthropology, art and perception at St Andrews.

Her proposed project, using photography to express how cultural perceptions both influence and are influenced by manifestations of mental illness, will complement her undergraduate focus on scientific research.

It also builds on Yin’s photo essay for Emory’s “Ethics, Disability and Medicine” course, which centered on physical obstacles that students with disabilities face on campus. As one recommender noted, Yin proved a “model leader … with a contagious curiosity” in the project and in her ability to integrate the humanities and science, with an eye toward community service.

She has worked as a student researcher in David Yu’s lab at the Winship Cancer Institute, investigating proteins involved in DNA damage response pathways for her honors thesis, and has served as layout editor for three years for the Emory Undergraduate Medical Review.

Yin also has worked as a resident and sophomore advisor for Emory Residence Life. Empathizing with the challenges of the first-year transition, she created a course registration guide and helped lead a new community-building event that drew more than 100 students.

Yin, who previously worked as a Winship patient volunteer and a mentor with Hearts Over Hands, plans to be similarly involved with community programs at St Andrews. She hopes to serve on the Wellbeing Subcommittee of the campus Students’ Representative Council.