Wabash College student Cooper Smith ’23 has earned a Marshall Scholarship, one of the most coveted competitive international fellowships.
A native of Sellersburg, Indiana, Smith earned the two-year fellowship from the Marshall Commission, which looks for candidates who have the potential to excel as scholars, as leaders, and as contributors to improved U.K.-U.S. understanding. During his two-year award, Smith will pursue a master of letters degree in legal and constitutional studies at the University of St. Andrews and a master of science in democracy and comparative politics at University College London.
Smith is the fifth Wabash student to win a Marshall Scholarship, and the first since Thomas Halverson ’87 was selected in 1989. Typically, fewer than 50 Americans receive the award annually, selected from nearly 1,200 nominated students.
“This is a dream come true,” said Smith. “This is my opportunity to learn and explore before returning to the U.S. for law school. I’ve wanted this opportunity for so long, but it always felt more like a fantasy than a realistic chance. As soon as I heard, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected as a 2023 Marshall Scholar,’ I teared up. I knew this would be a game-changer for me, as it will help me do the work I’m passionate about.”
A political science and history double major, Smith is currently the editor-in-chief of The Bachelor, the College’s student newspaper. He is a two-time winner of the Wabash Moot Court competition, has served as a writing fellow in the Wabash Writing Center, and is a section leader of the Wabash Glee Club.
Beyond the Wabash campus, Smith has served internships with the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, Kentucky, the Innocence Project of Florida, and the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, each providing important preparation for his planned career as a public interest attorney and advocate. Additionally, he has studied abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, where he researched the constitutional convention that was in progress there. Last year, he was one of 58 recipients of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, awarded to promising young leaders and future public servants.
“The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most important graduate fellowships offered, and Cooper is a terrific match for the program’s aims and mission,” said Susan Albrecht, Wabash College fellowship advisor. “It takes much more than being academically talented and widely involved on campus to secure a Marshall. A student must also exhibit significant leadership potential, propose a program that includes strong rationale for study in the U.K., and demonstrate a desire to engage fully in the community while abroad.”
“I continue to be impressed with Cooper’s level of intellect and his ability to think critically about complicated topics and concepts,” said Sabrina Thomas, associate professor of history and department chair. “However, it is his empathy that stands out most–his ability to recognize and appreciate how power and policies operate and how they affect the lives of real people who are too often victims of both forces. With all of his accolades, Cooper is committed to righting some of the wrongs in the world one historical narrative and one court case at a time. I believe I can speak for the entire history department when I say how proud we are of Cooper. His presence in our classes and on our campus has made each of us better.”
Cooper is the latest to join the ranks of Wabash men who have earned highly competitive fellowships in the last decade, including, among others, a Rhodes Scholar, an Obama Voyager Scholar, 25 Gilman Scholars, and 26 Fulbright recipients.
“The Marshall Scholarship will help train me to be a better scholar and advocate,” said Smith. “I hope to become an appellate or postconviction litigator focused on criminal justice reform and use practice and scholarship to make a real difference. My two years in the U.K. will add a new dimension to my research on legal history, democratic institutions, and constitutional design. The U.S. and U.K. share many common legal, political, and criminal justice crises. By studying U.K. solutions to common crises, I can shape my thinking about proper legal and political reforms for both countries.”