Two Honors College Students Named Marshall Scholar Finalists

Jaz Brisack or Marisa Kutchma could be Britain-bound as university's third recipient

Marisa Kutchma

OXFORD, Miss. – One of two University of Mississippi students may be pursuing graduate studies in the United Kingdom next year, thanks to a prestigious international scholarship program.

Jaz Brisack, of Oxford, and Marisa Kutchma, of St. Louis, have been selected as finalists for Marshall Scholarships. Established by an act of Parliament, the distinctive two-year program finances young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree in the United Kingdom. Up to 40 scholars are selected each year for graduate study at a U.K. institution in any field.

If chosen, Brisack or Kutchma would be UM’s third Marshall Scholar. Brent Bonds, of Iuka, and James Robert “JR” Rigby, of Madison, both 2003 alumni, were finalists in 2002. Rigby won the award.

“Jaz and Marisa took advantage of the academic and co-curricular opportunities the University of Mississippi offers its students and are evidence of the caliber and quality of students who choose to attend this university,” said Tim Dolan, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement.

“To be competitive for the Marshall Scholarship, it is not enough to have accomplished a great deal. In essays, students must craft narratives that capture their unique voice, express their dreams and effectively characterize their abilities.”

Both Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College students are in Atlanta for Nov. 6 interviews. All finalists will be notified whether or not they won by Nov. 17. Each finalist shared her plans if chosen to be a Marshall Scholar.

“I will spend my first year getting my master’s in medical anthropology from University College London and will focus my research on how to bring about changes to health care in developing countries,” said Kutchma, a biology major with minors in neuroscience and chemistry.

“I will spend my second year getting my master’s in reproductive and sexual health research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. There, I will focus my research on exploring solutions to the long-term effects of female genital mutilation.”

Jaz Brisack

Brisack also plans to pursue two master’s degrees if chosen.

“My first-choice degree program is the Master of Science in labour, social movements and development at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London,” said Brisack, a general studies major with minors in public policy leadership, journalism and English creative writing.

“During my second year of scholarship, I hope to expand my understanding and contextualization of these issues by pursuing the Master of Arts in human rights at the University of Sussex.”

Academic co-captain of the Ole Miss women’s soccer team, Kutchma has co-authored a paper on toxic effects of cannabinoids on fetal development. After graduation from Ole Miss, she plans on continuing her education, teaching or working in Africa.

“I want to gain experience in the field of women’s health care before I head to medical school and become an OB-GYN,” Kutchma said. “In the long run, I dream of opening an African clinic to provide medical care for FGM survivors.

“I want to act as a catalyst for change in the realms of women’s health, rights and education.”

A Harry S. Truman Scholar and one of three Ole Miss seniors being interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship program, Brisack plans to contribute to improved relations between the U.S. and U.K.

“I believe it is essential that the strong relationship between the two countries be based on a mutual respect for human rights and desire to empower all people to achieve self-determination goals,” Brisack said. “I believe my own work as a labor organizer and proposed field of academic study will both contribute to supporting the efforts and centering the stories of workers who are seeking to empower themselves by restructuring the power balance of their workplace.”

UM professors who submitted letters of recommendation praised each student for her exceptional academic achievements and community involvement.

“Jaz Brisack is impressive and unique,” wrote JoAnn Edwards, instructor of speech. “With all her abilities, with all her generosity, she works so hard because she thinks all she is, is not enough to make a difference.

“And yet, she is determined and fearless in her work. This quirky, flawed, passionate intellectual has all the elements of a powerful change-maker.”

Kristine Willett, chair of biomolecular sciences and professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology, wrote that she has “every confidence” in Kutchma’s capability to excel in the academic program she has outlined.

“To achieve her goal, she understands that she will need additional training in both the social science and medical fields,” Willett wrote. “On a personal level, Marisa is a friendly, respectful and forthright person who is easy to work with and gets along well with all of the lab personnel. It has been a privilege to serve as one of her mentors.”

For more information about the Marshall Scholarships, visit