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USC's Lukens A True Student-Athlete

Oct 29, 2010

By Rachel Caton

There is no question that USC senior cross country runner Zara Lukens epitomizes the title of student-athlete. On the course, she is co-captain of the Trojan squad and has been a steady and consistent runner for USC, as she is about to compete in her fourth Pac-10 Championship.

Off the course, she is beyond diligent with her studies, maintaining a 3.94 GPA with a major in International Relations and Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish. With her college career coming to a close, she is looking to the future like all seniors, and is looking to make a big impact in her post-graduate life.

Lukens has applied for different postgraduate scholarships abroad to pursue her interest in water policy and management issues. She applied for the Rhodes scholarship for study at Oxford University, the Marshall scholarship for study at a university in the United Kingdom, the Mitchell scholarship for study in Ireland and the Fulbright scholarship to do research in Uruguay. She has also completed an application to help young students through the Teach for America program.

For the Rhodes scholarship, she is applying to complete the MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management.

"I am very interested in water policy and management issues," said Lukens. "My main area of interest is the human rights implications of water policy; whether to define water as a human right or an economic good is a heated topic of international discussion right now. The outcome will affect millions of people who lack access to water and may have even less if it is distributed only to those who can afford to pay the price."

Oxford's MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management is an interdisciplinary program that explores a range of water issues from water science and technology to international water law and the socio-political nature of water. The aim of the program is to prepare students to become leaders in water policy.

"I have currently focused only on the international relations/law aspect of water politics and this program would give me the knowledge base and the tools to affect real change in the realm of water policy," added Lukens. "This program fits into my larger goal of practicing public service law, especially since my main interests are human rights, international and environmental law."

Her Fulbright research proposal also focuses on water issues. She says she wants to study the unique water system in Uruguay, a country that has a constitutional referendum banning water privatization.

The Marshall scholarship is awarded to distinguished American students to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in science, technology, the humanities and social sciences while studying at Britain's centers of academic excellence.

The Mitchell scholarship is designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland, while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to public service and community.

Lukens interest in water rights abroad stems from classes she has taken for her international relations major. Currently, she is enthralled by her class, "Contemporary Issues in Latin American Politics," where the biggest issue is water policy in Latin America. She has done in-depth research on the topic, as it is the focus of her International Relations thesis. Lukens states, "I am just very interested in water privatization, the influence of corporations and what demographic in foreign country has water rights and who doesn't."

Away from the books, Lukens has played a large role as co-captain for the Trojans cross country team.

"This cross country season has gone really well," she said. "We weren't sure how it would go due to injuries, but everyone is very focused."

As Lukens and the Trojans look towards the Pac-10 Championships, they are coming off a strong race at Cal State Northridge and feel confident about their running.

"All the girls felt great and it has given us positive feelings going into Pac-10s," Lukens said.

Looking back on her four-year career at USC, Lukens feels privileged to compete at a Division I school in the highly competitive Pac-10.

"The team here at USC is pretty small and we are a very tight-knit group," Lukens said. "I have been running with the same people for four years and we have such a family aspect outside of running, which I really cherish."

And one might wonder how she has time to balance such rigorous academic interests with competing at a high level in cross country.

"I was in the International Baccalaureate program in my high school, as well as a member of the cross country and track teams," Lukens said. "I learned how to balance things early on and I really work the best under a structure where I have to be time efficient."

Whatever Lukens does after her time at USC, you can be certain that she will continue to put her strong work ethic to good use.

"I would be ecstatic to have any of the opportunities post graduation, from Teach for America, to the Fullbright Scholarship, to the Rhodes Scholarship," she said. "I just want to make an impact and do something different before going to law school, where I want to study human rights law."