Dixon Li ’14, an English concentrator from Sandy, Utah, has been awarded the Marshall Scholarship for further study in the United Kingdom.
He is the only University student or alumnus to receive the scholarship this year. Last year, two students received a Marshall Scholarship.
The Marshall Scholarship provides American students unrestricted study-related funding for two years of graduate studies at a British university, according to the scholarship website. Li, who is also pursuing certificates in African American studies and American studies, plans to complete two year-long masters programs in Contemporary Writing and Culture at Queen Mary University of London and a Master of Philosophy program in English at the University of Cambridge.Li received the news the day after his Marshall interview, two minutes before he was scheduled to attend a lunch meeting.
“I’m sure I was excited, but I was a little bit frazzled because I was jet-lagged and I couldn’t be too excited, because I had to go to the lunch meeting still,” Li said. He immediately called his mother and sent a mass text to his roommates, best friends and writers who sent in recommendation letters for his application.
As excited as Li is now about his upcoming graduate studies, he said his advisers initially had to convince him to apply.
“I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do exactly after graduation, and my thesis adviser and a bunch of other people encouraged me to apply to the fellowships to the U.K.,” Li said.As a freshman, Li hoped to be a Wilson School major and had no interest in academia, he noted. After briefly exploring the idea of majoring in comparative literature, Li said, he finally decided on English after realizing that there are, in fact, many people in academia studying the topics that interest him. Some of those intellectuals are currently in the U.K., where Li said he hopes to meet and learn from them in the near future.
English professor Diana Fuss, one of Li’s junior paper advisers, said Li is “no ordinary student” and possesses a strikingly curious mind, as well as striking academic ability.
“His reading is prodigious, and his analytical powers are quite sharp,” Fuss said. “He’s mastered the art of conversation, and I think he just soaks everything up. More than writing and and even more than reading, conversing is intellectual for him. For him, every conversation about ideas is a joyful one.”
Through independent work and some “quirky, weird research projects,” including topics like sexual and sacred space in Utah as well as Beyonce and the politics of bling, Li has gained a greater appreciation for academia over his four years at Princeton, he noted. Li is writing his senior thesis on race and the five senses.
“It’s been really meaningful to feel like academic work is also satisfying like other intellectual or existential things that I’m interested in,” Li said.
Li said he hopes to work in academia some day, but not until after fully exploring other opportunities by possibly working in the arts sector or with international human rights organizations. Outside the classroom, he works with the LGBT Center, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, the Writing Center, the Princeton University Art Museum and WPRB radio.
Fuss said Li has proven himself to be a leader on campus and she can see him becoming a leading force in academia.
“His ethical commitments are deep and genuine, and he’s mature in his approach to people and places around him,” Fuss said. “I trust him and his instincts, and I know he will have a genuine impact on the world ... what that will be, I don’t know, but I suspect he will be a combination of scholar, activist, leader and public intellectual.”