The Forum: Williams College senior named Rhodes Scholar


WILLIAMSTOWN --Williams College senior Brian McGrail is among the 32 American men and women named as Rhodes Scholars for 2014.

The Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and arguably most famous academic award for American college graduates, provides for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

McGrail was selected from among 857 students who had been endorsed by 327 colleges or universities and 208 who made it to the final stage of competition, interviewing with Rhodes committees this weekend in their home districts.

A double major in history and political economy from Arlington, Va., McGrail is interested in applying tools from academia to public policy work, especially in the area of tax reform to address income inequality.

As a Rhodes Scholar, McGrail plans to pursue a master's degree at Oxford in comparative social policy.

"I would learn how other countries have implemented their own solutions to policy problems while adding a sociological dimension to my policy framework," he wrote in his application. "The quantitative aspect of a social policy degree would be especially useful in refining my approach to policy evidence."

McGrail worked with economics professor Jon Bakija last summer, researching federal and state tax policy as a Class of 1957 Scholar and Research Fellow, and he has worked as an intern or research assistant at the Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center, the Progressive Policy Institute and Hedrick Smith Productions.

"Brian is committed to a career in public service and is well-suited for this due to his rare combination of beautiful writing ability, strong technical skills, passionate interest in and extensive understanding of economics and public policy as potential forces for improving people's well-being, and a record of service to his community and the causes he cares about," said Bakija.

Last spring, McGrail was awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. At Williams, he has distinguished himself as a political activist, interning with Elizabeth Warren's U.S. Senate campaign; as a volunteer, helping low-income residents prepare their taxes; and as a campus leader, serving on the Committee on Undergraduate Life, the College and Community Advisory Committee, and on the College Council.

McGrail is the 37th Williams student to be named a Rhodes Scholar since the program began in 1902. The most recent previous Williams recipient was Marissa C. M. Doran in 2005.


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