Rhodes finalist passionate about studies

Kartik Telukuntla, a recent alumnus who majored in biology and political science at the University of Miami, was named one of 216 finalists in 2009 for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.
Each year more than 1,500 students embark upon the rigorous Rhodes application process by first requesting the endorsement of their universities to compete for the scholarship.
According to Kefryn Reese, the assistant director of international education and exchange programs, four UM students applied this past year for the UM endorsement through the Office of Academic Enhancement. Telukuntla and one other student, Derek Freitas, received endorsements. Telukuntla was the only UM student that advanced to become a finalist.
The Rhodes scholarships are the oldest international fellowships in existence today. The list of past recipients boasts 1,800 notable names, including former President Bill Clinton and famous astronomer Edwin Hubble.
Two students from each of the 16 U.S. districts receive the scholarship, which includes full funding to attend Oxford for two-to-three years and pursue either a Master’s degree or a Doctorate in a subject of their choice.
Any student from any school or college in the university may apply.
Although he did not win the scholarship, Telukuntla is still very proud of his accomplishments.
“I am so honored,” he said. “I really felt privileged and truly blessed. I didn’t expect to make it that far. To say it was humbling would be an understatement. It just inspired me to work that much harder.”
Telukuntla was the chief justice of the Student Government Association, the President of the Honor Council and a member of the President’s 100, the president’s ambassadors to the university. He has plans to attend UM’s Miller School of Medicine and hopes to work in health policy while tending to patients.
The selection process for the Rhodes scholarship is especially difficult, requiring a lot of preparation for interviews and even five letters of recommendation, according to Reese.
“I worked with him very closely,” she said. “But a lot of credit goes to his professors who worked with him throughout the entire process.”
Telukuntla prepped for two weeks before going to Birmingham, Ala., last fall for the final interviews.
“I got to meet some of the most talented and accomplished students out there,” Telukuntla said. “You just realize they’re ordinary people working extraordinarily hard.  My advice to anyone would be to just find your passion and act on it.”
Megan Terilli may be contacted at mterilli@themiamihurricane.com.