Economics major Aaron Keathley lands WSU’s first-ever Marshall Scholarship worth $100,000

Marshall Scholar Aaron Keathley

Senior Aaron Keathley made university history this year when he became Wayne State’s first-ever Marshall Scholarship recipient, receiving a $100,000 award for graduate studies in the United Kingdom after he graduates in May.

He is the only student in Michigan awarded in the 2023 class.

The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most highly competitive in the world, awarding $100,000 to up to 50 students. This year, of 951 candidates, only 40 were selected. Princeton, Harvard, MIT and Yale appear most frequently in this year’s class. And then there is Keathley and Wayne State.

For Keathley, this will be his first time abroad apart from a few trips to Windsor. He was taking an exam on his laptop when he received the call informing him that he won the award.

“It was difficult; you’re trying to manage finishing the exam on your computer, but you’re also just told you won a $100,000 scholarship, so it took a few days for it to digest,” Keathley says. “I mean the initial fear of moving away from home. I go to Wayne, I live in the area, I’ve never moved so it was kind of scary but just really exciting that someone is willing to make this kind of investment in my future.”

Majoring in economics with minors in psychology and statistics, Keathley discovered at Wayne State a passion for studying ways to address wealth and income inequality in places like Detroit. He also participated in a leadership program sponsored by Applebaum Family Philanthropy.

First, he will attend the London School of Economics and Political Science and then follow with studies at the University of Nottingham. He will receive master’s degrees.

“I’m looking to be an economist by trade, that’s what I’ve done in my undergrad and that’s kind of the lens I view the world through,” says Keathley. “I think going to an elite university where they do a lot of great research was really my motivation for applying (to LSE). Their ability to create good economists, and economists that are known for doing great things in the world...that’s something I’m very interested in.

“I chose the University of Nottingham because they’re the second-ranked behavioral economics master’s program in the world so, I mean for all intents and purposes, there is no better place to go than Nottingham for learning behavioral economics and applying that to the real world.”

Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause, faculty head of the Office of Fellowships saw Keathley’s potential and encouraged him to apply.

“Dr. Deegan-Krause in the (Irvin D. Reid) Honors College recommended that I apply for it because he thought I was somebody capable of doing the work that a Marshall entails, and he thought I would be a good fit for the program,” Keathley explains. “They don’t really discriminate against majors; anybody that wants to do good in the world they take applications from, and he thought it would be a great way to get me in grad school and go to good schools that would prepare me for my career.”

The Office of Fellowships, part of the Office of International Programs, was created in 2020 to streamline the application process and help students find fellowships for which they qualify and are well-suited.

For his application, Keathley had to write around 10 essays with tight word-counts, compile letters of recommendation, resumes and sit for an interview with a panel of experts in his field of study. Preparing was rigorous, so he worked closely with Deegan-Krause and the Office of Fellowships for guidance through the application process.

“I mean beyond just meeting and having talks about the essays, and what my prompt was going to be, and really refining my story, they really were willing at all hours of the day to email back and forth about what I was going to write about, and how I could refine it, and how I could save characters,” explains Keathley.

“The Marshall is pretty tough, they don’t want you to actually have somebody editing it for you. It’s really all on your own so just giving that general guidance. They were really great about being available, I was able to meet with them multiple times a week and I think it was a great experience that other students would enjoy.”

Much of his time will be spent attending classes and studying for a graduate degree, but Keathley will have some time to himself to explore the United Kingdom. He’s looking forward to seeking out everything being abroad has to offer.

“I’m a nerd at heart, I like learning about everything and anything, so I hope to take in just their culture in general. I look forward to attending sports, I’m a big sports fan so trying to get their view on the world,” Keathley says. “I like dipping my toes in all the different things that they have over there, and I’m excited to learn how they live over there.”

The Office of Fellowships has been working overtime, and more Wayne State students have been awarded competitive fellowships than in any previous year (see related story). Students can visit the fellowships site for more details and submit an intake form to begin the process. The Office of Fellowships also holds information sessions, which can be the starting point for an experience of a lifetime, as it was with Keathley.

“I think it’s important just to talk to them because they really helped me with my confidence, helped me with my application, convinced me that I was worthy of winning one of these scholarships, and getting that confidence was one of the biggest first steps to actually sitting down and working toward it.”

-- By Patrick Bernas, Office of International Programs editorial associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.


← Back to listing