Barmeier ’10 wins Rhodes Scholarship
Of the nation’s 32 recipients, 10 hail from Ivy League schools: five from Harvard, two from Yale and one each from Brown, Columbia and Princeton. MIT had three winners, while Stanford had one. Including this year’s results, Harvard has the highest total of Rhodes recipients with 328, followed by 219 from Yale and Princeton University had 193.
Barmeier, of Saratoga, Calif., plans to receive a master’s degree in nature, society and environmental policy at Oxford.
Having started the application process last May, Barmeier stepped into his final interview on Saturday with a panel of “eight or so” committee members “just really hoping that I would have something sharp to say in response to all of their questions,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Barmeier said Sunday about winning the scholarship. “It’s incredible to have this opportunity to study at Oxford. I feel fortunate to have been chosen from a pool of such amazing candidates.”
Barmeier, a Phi Beta Kappa member, a Udall Scholar, a head fellow at the Princeton Writing Center and an Outdoor Action leader, is an advocate of sustainable food initiatives around the country and the world. He worked at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome last summer, assessing the role of fisheries in developing countries’ food security strategies.
He said that, though he still has to be accepted into the specific program in which he wishes to study, he hopes to “gain the intellectual tools necessary to begin to fix our food system” during his time at Oxford.
“I think the biggest problem with the U.S. food policy is that we don’t think about it,” Barmeier said. “We don’t have a single food policy strategy. We don’t think about how the food system from the farm to the table is all related and how it affects our health, environment and economy, and that could lead to detrimental decisions.”
Burton Singer, a Wilson School professor and a co-director of the Program in Global Health and Health Policy, said Barmeier was a “penetrating and insightful scholar on every level.” Barmeier was in Singer’s class last year, WWS 316: Health and the Environment.
“The way I ran this course, everybody had to do a term project,” Singer said. “I asked him, ‘Why don’t you write a piece of legislation if there’s a place where you feel you can really have an impact?’ He actually wrote up a farm-to-school program involving the sale of produce from New Jersey farms to local schools, and frankly, it was a totally professional job. It was the sort of thing I would have expected from somebody who was doing this work for 25 years.”
Barmeier said he is writing his senior thesis on “municipal-level food policy in New Jersey.”
“[New Jersey] a very unique place for food policy right now because of a new program of incentives that should encourage municipalities to change their food policies,” he added. “It made sense to do my work here where I knew the players and knew the particular opportunities and challenges.”
Harold Feiveson GS ’72, a Wilson School lecturer and a senior research policy analyst who taught Barmeier in a task force on wind energy policies last spring, said he was particularly impressed with Barmeier’s “passion for trying to make the world better through food and agriculture initiatives.”
“What came across clearly throughout our interactions was his tremendous commitment to changing agriculture and food policies across the U.S. and the world,” Feiveson added. “He combines this unusual confluence of interest in farm policy, or agricultural policy more generally, and food issues with a very strong analytic capacity.”
Barmeier has also made a significant positive impact on the Writing Center since he became a fellow in his sophomore year, said Amanda Irwin Wilkins GS ’05, the Princeton Writing Program’s interim director.
“He was so highly recommended from his writing seminar teacher that I thought she must have been exaggerating, but I came really quickly to agree with her,” Irwin Wilkins said. Barmeier was selected as a head fellow for his junior and senior years.
She added that Barmeier is also “someone who is able to look around him and see where things need to be improved.” He approached her this year about providing more opportunities for Princeton students to improve their oral presentation skills through the Writing Center, and she encouraged him to spearhead an initiative.
“He has already indeed made it happen by convening a group to figure out what these appointments would be like and starting to offer them to some task forces within the Wilson School,” she said. “He has this ability to create a community that is about service. He knows that one of the greatest ways to pull people together and to make them work together is to make them feel like they’re doing something in the benefit of others.”
Barmeier has led a total of three Outdoor Action trips, including one of two new trips last fall focusing on sustainable farming.
“What he is interested in studying at Oxford is really something that he’s been committed [to] for many years,” said Outdoor Action Director Rick Curtis ’79, who has known Barmeier for three years. “Through his work with Dining Services and Greening Dining at Princeton, he’s had a real commitment to looking at the question of global food production and sustainability. The sustainable farming trip was a continuation of that. I can’t think of too many other students who have had such follow-through, who have worked so hard on and been committed to a particular topic, throughout his or her time at Princeton.”
In each of the last two years, three Princetonians won Rhodes Scholarships. Stephen Hammer ’09, Scott Moore ’08 and Timothy Nunan ’08 were last year’s winners. Sherif Girgis ’08, Brett Masters ’08 and Landis Stankievech ’08 were the recipients from the year before.
More than 1,500 students each year seek their institution’s endorsement for the Rhodes Scholarship. This year, scholars were selected from 805 applicants endorsed by 326 different colleges and universities. Including the 32 winners announced Saturday, a total of 3,196 Americans, representing 310 colleges and universities, have won scholarships since the Rhodes Trust was established in 1902.