Meet me at the Cross-Rhodes
Former ASUCI president Megan Braun has been named the first Rhodes Scholar in UC Irvine history.
Braun was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota and raised mainly in Coronado, California. She came to UC Irvine originally to play water polo. After being recruited by many of the country’s top universities, she ultimately chose UCI exclusively for athletics. Braun was impressed with both the trajectory of the water polo program and the head coach, Dan Klatt, who, at the time, had just returned from competing in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Academically, Braun was always interested in U.S. History, and initially focused on the settling of the American West. As she continued to study, however, she became interested in the ethical dilemmas posed by warfare.
“It offered the perfect fusion of my interests in history, philosophy, law and ethics,” Braun said.
Braun graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in philosophy. With advising from religious studies Professor Carol Burke, her senior thesis investigated how soldiers learn to kill and how their knowledge of weapons technology desensitizes them to the loss of life.
As she matured, Braun became more and more involved in student organizations and activities. In addition to participating in UCDC, Alternative Spring Break and Habitat for Humanity, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and studied abroad at the reputable University of Cambridge.
“Cambridge was incredible,” Braun said. “The UK university system has small class sizes that emphasize student discussions and independent study.”
Braun continued to strive and became the president of ASUCI for two years. As president from fall of 2008 to spring of 2010, her accomplishments continue to influence the course of current student life.
She fought for issues that dealt with everything from athletics, to finances, to ethics. For example, Braun planned five student tailgate events that increased student attendance at UCI sporting events. En route to creating the campus Outreach and Retention Center, she secured its funding, identified the office location and authored the center’s charter. In addition, she led a task force to establish a student government ethics code and wrote an ASUCI resource manual. Braun even negotiated a nightly 3-hour increase in library hours.
Braun led the Senior Class Gift Campaign, doubled student giving and secured the naming rights to create that campus bell tower that will undoubtedly become one of the symbols of UCI.
Braun is most proud of her involvement in ASUCI.
“I loved every moment of student government,” Braun said. “I believe it is important for students to have a role in the shared governance of the university and I enjoyed demonstrating to administrators that we were worthy of the responsibility and equal to the challenge.”
Now, at only 23 years of age, Braun is the first UCI student to garner the Rhodes Scholarship.
The scholarship is an international postgraduate award that grants study at the University of Oxford in England. It was given to 32 students from the United States and 80 international students this year.
“I am deeply honored to be the first UCI student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship,” Braun said. “This is the culmination of a 5-year aspiration and I am grateful to the many professors, students and administrators on campus who facilitated my success.”
In addition, Braun is the newest student recipient of UCI’s Living Our Values Award, which is given annually to a student that best embodies the university’s many values.
“The UC Irvine Values encapsulate the attributes the university seeks to cultivate, and my experiences on campus certainly facilitated tremendous personal growth,” Braun said. “There are many exceptional students at UC Irvine and I am proud to be part of such a vibrant community.”
When she starts Oxford next year, Braun will pursue a master’s in international relations. She sees it as a “great way to learn about the interplay between politics, policy and law.”
She plans to dedicate her career to international law and the pursuit of military justice. After Oxford, Braun hopes to attend law school and join the Navy’s Judge Advocate Program (JAG), which is the legal branch of the armed forces. She may even look into working for the U.S. State Department or United Nations.
“My ultimate goal is to prompt continual revision of the Laws of Armed Conflict so they will continue to safeguard human dignity and evolutions in warfare,” Braun said.
As for now, Braun is back in Coronado, enjoying some quality family time and fitting in some fun during her rare free time. She has already attended a Garth Brooks concert and, before she leaves for Oxford, Braun has planned some road trips and will visit Washington, D.C.
However, she has stayed involved in programs at UCI and is often on campus once a week. She is also co-authoring an article with political science Professor Daniel Brunstetter on drones, the unmanned combat aerial vehicles the U.S. military is using to fight terrorists in Pakistan.
Braun is a firm believer in hard work, prioritizing time and getting involved on campus. Upon being named ASUCI President, she chose to leave the water polo team, even though she would have started getting substantial playing time as the team’s goalie. Braun rearranged her priorities and decided to focus on student government.
“I had excellent time management, no social life and limited sleep [at UCI],” Braun said. “I always wanted the time-turner Hermione used in Harry Potter, but ultimately I realized that the truly successful work while the rest of the world sleeps. It does not matter if you go to Harvard or UC Irvine. Every situation offers the opportunity for success if you are willing to work hard.”
Braun applied but was not selected as a Rhodes Scholar last year, but had the resolve to re-apply. She owes a lot of her success in every area to perseverance and courage.
“I was horribly uncoordinated when I first started playing water polo, I was a mediocre student in high school and leading the hundreds of students in ASUCI did not come naturally,” Braun said. “I was inspired by Coach John Wooden’s philosophies about hard work, integrity and perseverance. I don’t believe that I am more brilliant or talented than anyone else who applied for the Rhodes; I worked hard and that is something anyone is capable of.”