for Marshall Scholarship
Lionel D. Foster, a Johns Hopkins University senior from Baltimore, has been selected as a Marshall Scholar, one of 40 chosen nationwide, the British Embassy announced Dec. 4.
Foster's selection to one of the most prestigious of academic scholarships for graduating seniors will allow him to spend two years in Great Britain, doing a comparative study of black churches in the United States and United Kingdom.
Marshall Scholarships are funded by the British government to commemorate the Marshall Plan, the U.S. government program that assisted in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II.
Foster, a Writing Seminars major who is minoring in classical studies, is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Black Student Union and a member of the Mentoring Assistance Peer Program or MAPP, which helps minority students get off to a good start in their new college environment. He is also an executive board member of P.E.A.C.E. - Partners Educating Artists, Composers and Entertainers, a group that encourages young artists to produce media with a positive message. The 21-year-old completed the first of two phases of the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in the summer of 1999. He spent also spent the last two summers as an intern with Merrill Lynch in both its Manhattan and London offices.
He is the first Marshall Scholarship winner from Johns Hopkins since 1998. Marshall Scholarships give up to 40 winners each year the opportunity to study at any British university. The scholarship pays university fees and living expenses, as well as travel fare to and from the United States. It is typically a two-year grant, with the possibility of extending the scholarship for a third year. Recipients must be U.S. citizens no older than 25 with a cumulative grade- point average of 3.70 after freshman year.
Besides a letter of endorsement from their university and four other letters of recommendation, applicants must submit by early October an outline of their proposed studies in Great Britain along with a personal essay. After a regional selection committee reviews the applications, candidates are chosen and interviewed by the committee in mid-November.
Foster will use his scholarship to compare the viability of black churches in Baltimore and Birmingham, England. The cities are similar in size, have a strong black presence and suffer from economic decline, Foster says. He aims to pinpoint why some black churches in troubled communities are agents for social change while other churches' pews are empty on Sunday.
This spring, Foster hopes to explore the local aspect of his thesis with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development or B.U.I.L.D., a group of Baltimore-area churches working to promote healthy communities. Next fall, Foster will begin his studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury, which he says will provide a cross-disciplinary approach to studying urban development issues.
"Urban regeneration specialists look at economics and politics to examine trends, but I feel that churches are being neglected," Foster says. "I'm going to look into how churches can increase their potential."
Though Foster has written several essays, short stories and plays about life in Baltimore, he says he has spent his whole life running from his own story of "a young black boy from Baltimore who wanted up and out but could not leave because he had to serve." Before choosing to pursue this topic, Foster says he sought opportunities with the Marines and in the investment banking industry "to prove that I was much more than where I had come from." Then he realized his faith in God was his sanctuary from life's hardships, including poverty and an absentee father. "For me, going to church every week was so natural," Foster says. "I felt like I had an appointment with God. I think that's the kind of relationship he wants to have with everybody. I went to a couple different churches during my childhood, but wherever I was going at the time, it always felt like I was home." This is the second year in a row that an African- American student at Johns Hopkins has won a major academic scholarship. Foster's friend Westley W. Moore was also a senior when he was selected as a Rhodes Scholar in December 2000.
"It says something about the African-American community at Johns Hopkins, that in successive years, the two most prestigious awards in the academic world were won here by two African-American students," says John Bader, assistant dean in the Office of Academic Advising and Foster's coach through the scholarship application process. "Hopefully these awards will attract more black students to campus, especially students from Baltimore."
Growing up in a poor neighborhood near the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Foster says he didn't think he would one day attend Johns Hopkins University.
"A lot of money flows into the medical center, but I was on the other side of the street. We didn't have much money," Foster says. "A lot of the kids I went to Baltimore City College High School with went on to big schools, but not many of them think of Johns Hopkins. A lot of minorities don't see themselves fitting in at Hopkins. I hope this sends a signal to a lot of minority students that you can get a lot of things done with the resources here."
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