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Rhiannon Graybill '06

Rhiannon Graybill '06

Rhiannon Graybill '06 is currently pursuing her doctorate in Hebrew Bible at UC Berkeley. She graduated from Swarthmore with high honors with a major in religion and a minor in interpretation theory. Her thesis surveyed various interpretations, ancient and modern, of the story of the Tower of Babel, and set forth new ideas on the problem of biblical hermeneutics. Her work received the Jesse H. Holmes Prize in Religion. Additionally, she was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist, a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and winner of both the Oak Leaf Award and the Philip Hicks Prize for Literary Criticism. While at Swarthmore she co-founded TOPSoccer with fellow Evans Scholar Ryan Kuker '06, served as a Residential Advisor for two years and volunteered with the Feminist Majority and The Achievement Project. Rhiannon used her Evans Opportunity Grant to travel abroad to further her studies. She studied Hebrew at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, traveled to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, and studied Arabic in Morocco with the School for International Training.

In Her Own Words

What were the most valuable Evans Scholars program experiences for you?

"The most valuable part of being an Evans was meeting the other scholars — what an amazing group of people, all doing interesting things (then, and now, too). I met some of my best friends at Swat on the Evans Outward Bound trip before classes even started."

Did the Evans Scholars program have any impact on what you're doing now?

"I always felt incredibly supported by the Evans program and by Matt Boulay and Bev Nalven, the directors. After my first year at Swarthmore, I missed my family, so I went back to Montana for the summer, where I waitressed, took biblical Hebrew, and dug up dinosaur fossils with Tyler Lyson, Emily Wistar, and Ryan Kuker. Now I'm working towards a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible — something I first thought seriously about that summer."

What was the most transformative class you took at Swarthmore?

"My most transformative class was the Honors Religion seminar Postmodern Religious Thought with Mark Wallace. The class was an incredible mix of philosophy and personal reflection. Immediately before Honors exams, four of us had a marathon three day study session where we locked ourselves in the Religion seminar room and argued about our readings what they meant — both philosophically and personally. We still talk occasionally. One of the first papers I presented in graduate school (and the first to be accepted for publication!) grew out of the conversations in this class."

What would you do differently if you were a student at Swarthmore now?

"I might eat more breakfasts in the ML breakfast room."

Name a person you most admire.

"I've always admired Gloria Steinem. I dressed up as her for an eighth grade class presentation."

What are you proudest of in your life so far?

"I am proudest of founding TOPSoccer (watch) with fellow Evans Scholar Ryan Kuker '06. The planning was frequently frustrating, but it was all worth it when we got to see our first class of kids learning to play soccer (or to chase soccer balls, or their buddies). I also love seeing the parents relaxing on the sidelines, and the Swarthmore volunteers learning to interact with their athletes. It's also great when the kids receive medals at the end — some of them don't want to take them off."