MSU senior selected as Rhodes scholar

Staff and wire reports

Okemos — A Michigan State University senior and soccer team captain is among 32 Americans selected as 2016 Rhodes scholars.

The Rhodes Trust announced the recipients Sunday and said Sarah B. Kovan, of Okemos, will pursue a Master’s of Philosophy degree in development studies at Oxford University in England.

Kovan is 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. She is MSU’s 17th Rhodes scholar since the awards began in 1904, according to a news release posted Sunday on the university’s website.

“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 in the release.

“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 honorary 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, officials said.

Rhodes scholars are chosen not only for their academic merits, but also for their successes in sports, and commitments to fellowship and 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.

The winners were chosen from 869 applicants who were endorsed by 316 colleges and universities.

Their scholarships are worth about $50,000 per year and cover all expenses for two or three years of study, starting next October.

The American students will be part of nearly 90 scholars selected worldwide each year.

Kovan’s academic research includes evaluating options for economic development in Sri Lanka for low-income women, the Rhodes Trust said.

“She has a passion for not only understanding issues in global health, but also in acting on them,” according to a biography on Kovan from the trust.

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.

Kovan spent her free time serving in Israel’s national ambulance corps while studying at Hebrew University. At home, she has provided bedside care to local hospice patients.

She also has participated in concussion testing for youth athletes and served as a camp counselor for special-needs children.

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

“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,” said MSU President Lou Anna Simon.