Jose Canto (COL ’08) and Katherine Boyle (COL ’08) do not have too much in common.

Canto hails from urban Baltimore, Md., and has specialized his studies in anti-poverty policies and solutions. Boyle comes from marshy Gainesville, Fla., and has focused her studies on intellectual property rights and their role in the pharmaceutical industry.

But still, the two share a distinct honor. Boyle and Canto were awarded the George J. Mitchell Scholarship – an award given to only 12 students nationwide for the 2008-2009 academic year. Their receptions of the award have also catapulted Georgetown into first place among universities with the highest number of Mitchell Scholarship winners.

The Mitchell Scholarship provides 12 Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 who have or will have obtained a bachelor’s degree by Oct. 1 with an opportunity to study for a post-graduate year at any university in Ireland. According to the press release of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit organization that establishes and administers the scholarship, this year’s selection committee reviewed over 300 applications from 139 different schools.

Boyle plans to study public advocacy and activism at National University of Ireland at Galway, while Canto will study sociology at University College Dublin.

John Glavin, Georgetown’s university fellowship secretary and English professor, said the quality of applicants for these scholarships is very high.

To win one of these fellowships, you have to be literally extraordinary, he said. You have to do something that none of your peers has done.

According to its online website, the selection committee looks for significant achievement in academics, leadership, and commitment to community service, and has an extensive application process, including five letters of recommendation, an essay, and a letter of institutional support.

Canto has focused his research on different solutions to the issue of poverty in American society. He has worked in free tax clinics, served as a D.C. summer school teacher and worked to create a development potential index to rank the effectiveness of faith-based organizations in the District.

He said that he sees the fellowship as a forum that will make solutions to poverty more attainable.

One thing that attracted me to the Mitchell [scholarship] was that it was originally about the peace process,” he said. I think the solution to many of our conflicts today are solving problems of economic equality … it could be a way of creating a lasting peace.”

Boyle said that she has been interested in intellectual property rights for quite some time. Although she used to compose music, she realized that she had become more interested in the protection of her intellectual property than the composing itself.

At Georgetown, Boyle has conducted extensive research at the Property Rights Alliance on intellectual property rights.

She said she believes that studying in Ireland will provide a greater opportunity to understand her subject matter in a much broader and more comprehensive way.

“Ireland’s an emerging economy. In my field, Ireland is investing in research at the university level,” she said. “It’s very interesting to see how one country does [intellectual property rights] as compared to how the United States does it.”

The Mitchell Scholarship is named after former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine), who helped forge the 1998 Belfast Peace Agreement that helped lay out a plan for stabilization and protection of humanitarian rights in Northern Ireland.

According to Glavin, Boyle and Canto have continued a strong Georgetown presence in the Mitchell scholarship program. He said that two Georgetown students have been awarded the scholarship the past two years and that at least one student from the Hilltop had been named a scholar every year before that.

“We’re enormously proud of both of them,” he said. “They worked very, very hard, through many rewrites and many hours of bruising interviews.”

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