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Boise State Student Elena Gallina Named Rhodes Scholar Finalist

By: Sherry Squires   Published 9:42 am / November 20, 2017

Rachel Elina Gallina

Boise State University student Elena Gallina has been named a Rhodes Scholar finalist.

“The Boise State family is so proud of Elena Gallina for her incredible achievement,” said Boise State University President Bob Kustra. “We have worked diligently to create an academic environment at Boise State University that encourages our students to pursue their passions and aim high. I can’t say enough about the quality of our Honors College and academic leaders across campus, and the high-caliber students they attract, support and challenge. Elena’s selection as a Rhodes Scholar finalist is incredibly inspiring.”

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Applicants come from more than 320 American colleges and universities.

Gallina, who will graduate in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies and a minor in Arabic studies, is passionate about changing the way international governing bodies respond to disaster and the post-conflict reconstruction process. Growing up the child of humanitarian aid workers in the aftermath of the Balkan wars, she witnessed first-hand the ill effects mishandled aid can have on society and the ways in which communities struggle to recover from disaster. She plans to pursue graduate degrees in public policy and international development, eventually working to uncover how to best modify systems to mitigate violence against women in the midst of conflict.

“I am overwhelmed, honored, and grateful to be considered as a finalist,” Gallina said. “My Boise State experience has been incredible! Faculty, staff, students — so many people on campus have contributed to who I am today and assisted in my professional and intellectual growth in the past few years. In particular, members of the honors college and the economics department have been great assets to  my experience here.”

Gallina received the Harry S. Truman Scholarship earlier this year, becoming the university’s second Truman Scholar. That award, considered one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States, is based on leadership, a commitment to public service and academic excellence. Prior to that, she was Boise State’s first Boren Scholarship recipient.

Gallina is a member of the Honors College at Boise State. Since graduating from high school, she has worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan, aided community development in Swaziland and served in a variety of social empowerment efforts in the Balkans, Israel, Palestine and Boise. Her most recent independent research deals with gender-based violence in refugee camps and the West Bank, and she spent the past academic year studying at the University of Haifa.

“Elena possesses jaw-dropping drive and character. Rhodes recognized it, and everyone who meets her recognizes it,” said Andrew Finstuen, dean of the Honors College. “We celebrate the distinction but also the fact that Elena channels her enormous talent into deep care for humanity. Her record of service to populations from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and America is nothing short of astonishing. Her accomplishment joins a growing trend of Honors students winning prestigious national and international awards each year.”

Gallina continues a legacy of success that other fellowship applicants from Boise State have achieved in recent years. Since 2013, the Honors College fellowships advising team has helped 10 students research and teach abroad on Fulbright grants, two to study languages through Boren awards, one to continue research through a Goldwater Scholarship, and one to complete graduate study at Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards in the country.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year more than 2,500 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 866 were endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities, and 228 applicants were named finalists. Learn more about Rhodes at