Published: Nov. 22, 2015

MSU soccer team captain named Rhodes Scholar

Contact(s): Kristen Parker University Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709, Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore Honors College office: (517) 35-2326

Michigan State University senior Sarah Kovan, from Okemos, has been named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar.

A member of the Honors College majoring in comparative cultures and politics in James Madison College and human biology in the College of Natural Science, Kovan is MSU’s 17th Rhodes Scholar since the awards began in 1904. MSU’s first Rhodes Scholar was named in 1919.

The Rhodes Trust chose 32 scholars from an applicant pool of 2,000. Half the scholars selected are women.

“Being named a Rhodes Scholar is an incredibly amazing and humbling experience, and I couldn’t have gained this recognition without the unending support from the MSU community,” Kovan said. “As a scholar-athlete, I’m most proud of the accomplishments I have achieved in collaboration with my teammates, like our most exciting wins. It is in these successes, and in the camaraderie created in those moments, that make me proud to be a Spartan athlete.”

Kovan is a starting midfielder and captain for the MSU women’s soccer team, earning Academic All Big-Ten Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014, along with the 2015 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award and MSU Scholar-Athlete Award.

She is the daughter of Jessica and Jeff Kovan, director of MSU sports medicine and team physician for MSU basketball, soccer, track and softball.

While studying at the University of Oxford in England next year, Kovan will pursue a master’s of philosophy degree in development studies.

As the United Nations and the international community continue to develop and implement the Millennium Development Goals, she hopes to research sustainable practices to better implement global health on an international scale.

“Sarah’s tremendous academic achievements, her worldwide experience as a public servant, combined with her great leadership as a student athlete, all help make her the special person she is,” said Tom Saxton, coach of the MSU women’s soccer team. “This tremendous honor means a great deal to our program, department and university. We have always emphasized and celebrated excellence in the classroom and community with our team, and Sarah’s Rhodes Scholarship is an achievement at the very highest level.”

Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their academic merits, but also for their successes in sports, commitments to fellowship and their strong sets of moral values, said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the Honors College.

“Sarah has repeatedly demonstrated her excellence as a scholar, athlete and budding professional committed to making an impact on science, medical care and global health issues,” Jackson-Elmoore said. “Sarah represents the very best of MSU students and we wish her every success in her future endeavors.”

Kovan has participated in concussion testing for youth athletes and she has served as a camp counselor for children with special needs. While studying abroad at Hebrew University, Kovan spent her free time serving in Israel’s national ambulance corps. Her academic research has included evaluating options for economic development in Sri Lanka for low-income women. Within her own community, Kovan has provided bedside care to local hospice patients.

“I join the MSU community in congratulating Sarah, a leader in the classroom and on the soccer field, on this prestigious recognition,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “From research to art to athletics, Spartans excel at working together to advance the common good. I’m confident that as Sarah starts this exciting new chapter in her life, she will continue to be a highly-valued team player and an exemplary Spartan ambassador who will help change the world.”

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, scholarships provide 32 of the most outstanding undergraduates in the country an opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England.

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