Meet Nathan: Honors gave him a 'natural progression' toward one of the world's most prestigious scholarships

 

The community curiosity and inquiry at Putt Honors is what drew Nathan (alum ‘91) here — and it took him further than he ever expected. 

“I came in for a scholarship interview, and it was just a really interesting conversation, much more than it felt like an evaluation. There was a real sense of community around the idea that we are all interested in a whole variety of topics, and this shared curiosity.”

Nathan entered as an engineering major, but the dean nudged him to try a neuroscience class — and that’s eventually what he earned his degree in. But he continued to explore engineering and other topics, even doing an in-depth research project on the philosophy of math. 

“Many, many opportunities came up that didn't really have anything to do necessarily with the things that I was allegedly doing academically. They were just things that would be interesting to people who were thinking about ideas.”

Eventually, he was encouraged to apply for the world’s most prestigious scholarship: the Rhodes Scholarship — and won. 

“It happened in a way that felt very natural; I wasn’t necessarily preparing for it. It seemed like the natural consequence of being given the ability to do all the things I was interested in doing.”

Nathan and his now-wife (also an Honors alum) even came up with their own scholarship program when they were undergraduates. 

“Why would the dean of the College think that it was a good idea to let 2 undergraduates do that? I have no idea! But they trusted us to do it, and to learn from it. The Honors College gives a lot of agency to students.”

Nathan is now the Vice Provost of Graduate Studies and Strategic Initiatives at Pitt. During his career, he has also been a prominent faculty member and interim Provost at Carnegie Mellon, and conducted extensive research funded by leading organizations.