Redmond student notches prestigious Marshall Scholarship

Jacob Imam was recently awarded the Marshall Scholarship and will be studying at the University of Oxford come fall 2016. - Courtesy Photo
Jacob Imam was recently awarded the Marshall Scholarship and will be studying at the University of Oxford come fall 2016.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Jacob Imam will be the first to admit he can sometimes overextend himself.

And this past fall was a prime example.

As a senior at Baylor University (BU) in Waco, Texas, much of the Redmond native’s time has been taken up by classes, homework and all that comes with school. In addition, Imam’s time was also taken up by applying for two scholarships: the Rhodes Scholarship and the Marshall Scholarship.

In November, he learned he had been selected for the latter.

“It was just tremendous,” said Imam, who graduated from The Bear Creek School in 2012, about how he felt when he received the news. “It is a huge award.”

And the work involved in applying was also tremendous. He said the application was 10 pages long and included several essays — including personal statements as well as an essay on United States-United Kingdom relations, as the Marshall Scholarship is funded by the British government to fund American citizens to study in the UK.

“It was such a long process,” Imam said with a laugh about applying. “It was really arduous.”

After submitting his application, Imam was contacted for an interview. He was also contacted for an interview for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Imam traveled from Texas to San Francisco and then to Seattle for his interviews. He then had to travel to England for a prior engagement at Oxford. This was all in the span of two weeks. Upon returning to BU, where he is studying classics and historical philosophy, Imam said he had a lot of homework and studying to catch up on during his absence from school.

“It was terrible,” he said about the back-to-back travel.

But it was worth it as the Marshall Scholarship — which he learned he had received the day after his interview — will fund his studies for two years as well as research grants and his living expenses. Imam said he is “really thankful” to be selected for the scholarship.

Imam admitted that he felt some trepidation when he learned he had received the scholarship. He said he didn’t want the award to go to his head as the scholarship’s monetary amount will be upwards of $100,000. About 1,000 people applied for the scholarship and 32 American students were selected. According to a press release from BU, Imam was the only student from a Texas university selected.

Imam has chosen the University of Oxford. He graduates from BU in the spring and will begin his studies at Oxford in October. Imam plans to pursue a master in philosophy degree in Islamic studies and history.

Although he attended Bear Creek and is attending BU — both Christian schools — Imam has some history with the Islamic faith. His father’s side of the family is Muslim and from the Middle East, hailing from Jerusalem, and in the Islamic faith, Imam is the word for the prayer leader of a mosque. While this may be, Imam said he was never a practicing Muslim. He became a Protestant Christian when he was 15 and then converted to Catholicism about a year ago when he was 21.

One of the reasons Imam has chosen Islamic studies is the ongoing unrest in the Middle East. He said in order for the West to engage with the Middle East, religion must be a part of the conversation.

In addition to his family’s background, Imam’s background with Islam comes from his senior thesis, which is about the intertextuality of the Koran and the Bible as the two texts contain shared stories and retelling of various stories within their pages.

Although Imam will be studying abroad for two years, he does not have any trepidations about it. He has traveled “quite a bit” ever since his days at Bear Creek. He said while he was still at the Redmond school, he traveled to Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic with the school on various trips. Since then, he had a two-month internship at the  University of Cambridge in England, studied for two months at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and studied and had an internship at Oxford for more than six months.

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