U.S. Virgin Islander Gets Prestigious British Scholarship

Leah Trotman of St. Thomas was awarded a full scholarship to study in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy of the British Consulate in Miami)

For the first time in the history of the program, a U.S. Virgin Islands student won the U.K. Government’s prestigious Marshall Scholarship.

St. Thomas resident Leah Trotman was among the 46 recipients of the 2021 Marshall Scholarship announced by the British Government this week, marking the first time a U.S. Virgin Islands student has won the prestigious, highly competitive scholarship, according to the British Consulate in Miami. The winners, considered to be among the best and brightest university students in the United States, were chosen following a rigorous selection process.

The scholarship goes to U.S. students to study in the United Kingdom. It pays all university fees, cost of living expenses, an annual book grant, a thesis grant, research and daily travel grants and fares to and from the United States.

Trotman, a graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, will attend the London School of Economics and Political Science during the first year of her scholarship. While at LSE, she plans to study international health development with a focus on disaster management, to identify how best to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters on health in the Caribbean and Latin America. In her second year, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in Caribbean and Latin American Studies at University College London to study the historical, political and cultural conditions that affect health decisions in those regions.

“Some of my long-term professional goals include serving in an executive role in an international public health agency focused on Caribbean and Latin American health and disaster relief efforts,” Trotman said in a release from the British Consulate. “Ultimately, I hope someday to run for Governor of the Virgin Islands, where I would not only strengthen disaster relief but also the territory’s entire infrastructure,” she said.

The Marshall Scholarship program is principally funded by the British Government, but also by generous support through partnership arrangements with world-leading British academic institutions. This allows winners to pursue graduate degrees in almost any academic subject at any university in the U.K.

The 2021 class will take up their studies at 14 different institutions across the U.K. beginning in September of next year, ranging from the London School of Economics and Political Science to Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

For the first time in the program’s 66-year history, the incoming class will be majority minority, with 52 percent reflecting minority communities across the United States, including a record number of Black and Latino scholars. A majority of the class are female scholars and six are first-generation college students.

Dame Karen Pierce, British ambassador to the United States, said “Marshall Scholarship classes traditionally represent a diverse mix of cultural, academic, institutional and socio-economic backgrounds, but the 2021 class is truly groundbreaking. This class, one of the most diverse and inclusive in the program’s history, is a wonderful mirror of modern American society and demonstrates the vital role that the Marshall Scholarship continues to play in maintaining a vibrant U.S.-U.K. relationship.”

Christopher Fisher, chair of the Marshall Commission, weighed in saying that “Throughout the life of the program, Marshall Scholars have regularly pursued academic disciplines which reflect contemporary issues and priorities. With this new class, we see scholars continuing to search for a better understanding of today’s world and how best to meet tomorrow’s challenges. In the face of the most pressing current crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic – we see dozens of Marshall Scholars contributing to finding a solution to the associated health, social and economic challenges, whether in the laboratory, in the hospital or in the formulation of policy and practical responses.”

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, the program received a record 1,190 applications from top undergraduate students representing academic institutions from across the United States.

Trotman also won the Harry S. Truman Scholarship this year, another highly competitive scholarship that picks around 60 students out of about 600 annual applications for a $30,000 scholarship.