Caroline Batten '14 is the winner of a prestigious Keasbey Scholarship, which will send her to Oxford University to earn a master of philosophy in English literature.
Akin to the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, the Keasbey recognizes academic excellence, active participation in extracurricular activities, leadership abilities, and the promise of intellectual and personal growth from two years of study in the United Kingdom. The highly sought-after honor goes to just one or two students a year.
"I was, honestly, shocked," says Batten, an Honors English literature major from West Newton, Mass. "I thought they had made a mistake. But now that's had a while to sink in, I'm thrilled. I have the opportunity not only to study at one of the world's great universities, but also to immerse myself in another culture and meet students from all over the globe."
Last year, Batten received a regional first-place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a feature she created for Swarthmore's student-run War News Radio. She is also a literary critic and fantasy writer of "astonishing" ability, says Craig Williamson, professor and Honors Program coordinator of English literature and a mentor of Batten's.
"Whether she's writing about Beowulf or spinning out strange tales of magical realism, she can make us see what we've never seen before," he says. "[The scholarship] will give her the opportunity to travel across the bridge between modern and medieval worlds and to create a magical crossover world in her fiction. I expect great things from her."
The Keasbey Memorial Foundation's three trustees held interviews with 12 finalists this year. They were drawn from Yale, Princeton, Amherst, and Swarthmore, which are among 12 institutions that rotate for Keasbey consideration every three years. As one of this year's two winners, Batten will receive tuition, living expenses, and fees for two years of study at Oxford.
"We are enormously impressed with Caroline's intelligence and ambition to be a writer," says Jennifer Jones, one of the trustees and an associate professor of history at Rutgers University. "We know she will be an outstanding representative of our foundation."
Batten's studies will center on the Medieval Period, from 650 CE to 1550 CE, and Anglo-Saxon Old English, to which she was introduced as a freshman in Williamson's "Old English/History of Language" class and in which Beowulf was sung.
"That means a lot of epic poetry, a lot of manuscript work, and a lot of language practice, since Old English is nothing like the English we speak today," she says.
For more than 50 years, the Keasbey Foundation has supported some of the most intellectually curious and gifted college graduates in the U.S. "From budding opera singers to medical researchers to economists to social workers and philosophers," the Foundation notes, "there is no one type of Keasbey scholar." Batten becomes the 14th Swarthmore alum to join these prestigious ranks, and the first since Nandini B. Pandey in 2002.
"I profoundly appreciate the fact that I would never have been offered this opportunity if it weren't for my experiences at Swarthmore," she says. "Swarthmore has taught me how to engage critically and passionately with my academic work and exposed me to ideas I would never have encountered otherwise. I'm especially grateful to my professors - particularly in the English Department - for their unceasing enthusiasm and for teaching their students to strive for improvement."