April 26, 2004

SIUC student is in select company

by Tom Woolf

. CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Southern Illinois University Carbondale undergraduate student is one of only 80 nationwide to win a prestigious Morris K. Udall Foundation scholarship.

Raphi K. Rechitsky, a junior majoring in sociology and philosophy from Northbrook, is the University's first-ever Udall Scholar.

Congress established the Morris K. Udall Foundation in 1992 to honor Udall's 30 years of service in the U.S. The Arizona Democrat retired from Congress in 1991, and died in 1998. The foundation is an executive branch agency. The president appoints its board of trustees with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.This is the second time in less than a month that SIUC students captured "firsts" in major national scholarship competitions. Teresa J. Gisburne, a junior majoring in zoology, won a $7,500 scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The foundation's purpose is educating a new generation of Americans to preserve and protect their national heritage through studies in the environment, Native American health and tribal policy and effective public policy conflict resolution.

"The Udall Scholarship is a prestigious national honor and we congratulate Raphi Rechitsky," said Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn. "He and other accomplished students on our campus continue to build our national reputation for academic achievement."

Laurie Bell, assistant director of the University Honors program and head of the major scholarship office, said the applicant pool was "extremely strong," with 513 nominees.

"Raphi's award speaks very highly about his commitment and potential," Bell said. "He's very involved and has a very impressive resume, so it was no surprise to me that his application would catch the judges' attention."

Rechitsky, the son of Eugene Rechitsky of Northbrook and Marina Rechitsky of Des Plaines, said he has "a lifetime commitment to positive, progressive social change."

"A lot of what I'm doing academically is to look at the ways social movements frame different problems and then see what kinds of tactics they commit to so they can make positive environmental change," he said. "My objective is to analyze the tactics so activists can use them to change the world, so they have research to know what works and what doesn't."

Though he has yet to hear the amount of his Udall scholarship -- it can be as much as $5,000 -- Rechitsky knows he will use the money for graduate school.A self-described "environmental activist," Rechitsky participates in the Student Environmental Center on campus and the Campus Shawnee Greens, the campus affiliate of the Green Party. He helps out with events at the Interfaith Center and belongs to the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois. Over the past year, Rechitsky said his primary community activity has been helping with the creation of the Big Muddy Independent Media Center, an online source of independent news and commentary.

Promoting excellence in undergraduate excellence is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.