WUSTL student, graduate Rhodes Scholar finalists

Arts & Sciences senior Ashley Brosius, recent alum Fidel Desir among 210 U.S. finalists

Senior Ashley D. Brosius, a triple major in women, gender, and sexuality studies, political science and anthropology, all in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis, and Fidel Desir, a 2010 Arts & Sciences WUSTL graduate, were finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Brosius and Desir were among 210 students from across the United States nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford in England. Rhodes Scholars are selected on the basis of their undergraduate academic achievements, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor.

“To be chosen as a Rhodes finalist from hundreds of applications is such an achievement in and of itself,” says Joy Zalis Kiefer, PhD, fellowship adviser, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, and director of undergraduate research. “This honor speaks to their excellence on academic achievement, but also to their integrity, character and commitment to serving others,” she says. “We are very proud to have had them represent Washington University on the national stage.”




Brosius, 21, of Moline, Ill., will graduate in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and holds a 3.91 GPA. She has earned a place on the dean’s list each semester she has studied at WUSTL.

At WUSTL, Brosius has spent much time advocating for the advancement of women in the fields of science and technology and also for women in domestic abuse situations.

In 2010, Brosius wrote and received a $5,000 grant from the American Association for University Women to design and implement the “Catalyst for Change” program, which aims to help break down barriers for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Through the Catalyst for Change three-day workshop — organized by Brosius — WUSTL hosted racially and ethnically diverse female high school students from St. Louis-area schools as they participated in science experiments and met with female students and faculty in STEM at WUSTL. For more information about the program, visit news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/22133.aspx.

As a volunteer advocate at the St. Louis County Domestic Violence Court, Brosius works in the Adult Abuse Office to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence file for orders of protection. There, she also provides resources and safety advice and conducts follow-up calls with petitioners to gather information about their experiences. Brosius was named the court’s Advocate of the Year, 2010-11.

Building upon her experience as a volunteer, Brosius’ senior thesis examined whether the sex or gender of the judge, petitioner or respondent impacts case outcomes.

At WUSTL, among numerous other activities, Brosius is serving as a student representative to the Board of Trustees and a member of the First-Year Center Executive Board.

As the training chair for the First-Year Center Executive Board, Brosius manages and trains Washington University Student Associates who work directly with first-year students; provides academic mentoring for first-year students; and plans and implements first-year student programming.

She recently was appointed by Gary S. Wihl, PhD, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, as the only student member on the search committee to identify candidates for the position of dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Brosius also is a member of the Washington University Triathlon Team and has competed in Triathlon Nationals (a 1.5-km swim, a 40-km bike ride, and a 10-km run) and a number of long-distance running races, including a marathon and half-marathon in the past two-and-a-half months.



Fidel Desir, a 2010 Arts & Sciences graduate, was also a finalist.

Desir graduated summa cum laude May 2010 with a double major in biology and French, both in Arts & Sciences.

He spent the year after graduation at St. Joseph de Thomassique clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, where he coordinated community health projects addressing issues such as water quality, malnutrition and chronic disease management. He led an outreach program that sought to stem the cholera epidemic through educational initiatives, and also acted as the liaison between the NGO supporting St. Joseph’s and the clinic’s all-Haitian staff.

Desir won a full scholarship to the medical training program at Johns Hopkins, where he is currently enrolled.

While at WUSTL, he won the Richard Admussen Prize in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in Arts & Sciences for his senior honors thesis comparing the work of the 16th-century French poets Louis Labe and Gabrielle de Coignard.

He also twice won the department’s Marie Blondiaux Prize for a poem in French, and placed third in an international competition with another poem.

In the meantime, he maintained a perfect grade-point average in biology, where he served as a teaching assistant for a neurophysiology lab and for a course in physiology. As a freshman, he led a chemistry problem-solving session for students with learning disabilities.

He won the 2010 Stalker Award, given to the graduating senior in biology whose undergraduate career was marked by outstanding scientific scholarship as well as contributions to the university in areas of artistic expression and/or community service.

Although he is an outstanding scholar of both the sciences and the arts, Desir’s most impressive contribution has been in community service. The summer following his freshman year, he worked as a volunteer at the maternity hospital Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia in the Dominican Republic, the country where he grew up.

There, he saw firsthand that many pregnant women who were HIV-positive received no prenatal care, greatly increasing the risk that their babies would be infected at birth.

With fellow WUSTL student Priya Sury, he won a $10,000 grant from the Davis Project for Peace to develop and implement an HIV transmission prevention program, returning to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2008 to lead daily education seminars in the hospital and to train hospital staff to lead the seminars.

Desir hasn’t limited his community service to the Dominican Republic. While he was a WUSTL student, he was executive director of College Connections, a college mentorship program at a low-income high school in St. Louis.

In preparation for his year at St. Joseph de Tomassique, Desir taught himself Haitian Creole French, his fifth language. A native Spanish speaker, he is also fluent in English and French and has a working knowledge of Mandarin.