University of Utah student named Rhodes Scholar

Sabah Seal, a senior finance professional at the University of Utah, is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars named this month.

Sial, from Sandy, was selected from among 2,300 US applicants this year for a prestigious scholarship, which provides tuition fees and living expenses for two years of international graduate study at Oxford University. Sial plans to study the intersection of finance, criminology, and criminal justice next year.

“White collar crime is a financial area that isn’t really talked about, but it can have a real impact on ordinary people,” Sial said. “I want to make funding more accessible to individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic or ethnic background.”

Born in Pakistan and raised in Utah, Sial dedicated her undergraduate studies to economic policy and white-collar crime – and her special impact on underserved and underrepresented populations. It looks at financial crime in a “comprehensive framework of criminology”. Sial’s honorary thesis explored how to make IPOs more diverse. For the past two summers, I have trained at Goldman Sachs’ Salt Lake City office, in the Criminal Compliance division.

While Sial is the first Rhodes scholar from U in 20 years, the university has had increasing numbers of students who have been awarded Churchill Scholarships, Fulbright Scholarships, and other national and international scholarships.

“This award speaks to the brilliant thought of Sabah Sial. As a scholar from Rhodes University, she joins the ranks of US presidents and rulers, philosophers, inventors, journalists and diplomats,” said President Taylor Randall. “Moreover, it reflects the dedication of the faculty who teach, challenge, support, and mentor students at the University of Utah.”

Qualifications required for a Rhodes Scholarship include academic excellence, social impact, ability to work with others, commitment to making a difference for the good in the world, awareness of inequality and concern for the safety of others. Public service is a critical component of the application process.

While at U, Sial advocated diversification of Honors College’s curriculum, worked to give students a voice in the Head Office of Safety through the SafeU Ambassador program and volunteered for the vice president debate in 2020.

“Her work ensures that students have the opportunity to be heard and to shape campus safety policy,” says Ginger Smoke, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Grants. “She is a visionary, using her extraordinary intellectual abilities and talents, able to see the big picture and work to include many diverse voices.

The Rhodes Scholarship will give her the opportunity to continue to hone these capabilities over the next two years. I have complete confidence that it will contribute to the future of the world in a big way.”

L. Jackson Newell, professor emeritus, who taught SIAL on two ethics courses with honors and mentored her as a teaching assistant, said she was dedicated to learning the liberal arts and sciences, as well as finance. “Her eyes radiate not only intelligence, but curiosity, commitment and kindness,” he added. “It is not surprising that she inspires and serves others well. These are signs of a Rhodes Scholar and the qualities that every student must cultivate.”

Ciel is a presidential intern, chief justice at Arizona State University, and a scholar at the Eccles School of Honors.

All of this experience, Sabah said, “led me to mentors who really cared about their students, saw the kind of direction I wanted to follow before I realized it myself, and pointed me to opportunities. The university has been crucial in connecting me with individuals who really want to see their students succeed.”

Ciel will earn two MSc degrees while studying at Oxford – one in criminology and criminal justice, and one in financial economics. Her father owns a business in Salt Lake City. Her mother obtained her medical degree in Pakistan, but gave up her career in medicine to raise her children.

“No one wins the grant alone,” Sial said. “I had a whole community of people supporting me – professors, elected officials, university leaders. Believing that my mentor and advisor was in me was so critical to me even getting to where I was, and the cornerstone of my application. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get here.”

Since 1904, the University of Utah has had 23 total winners since 1904 Last time in 2002. Sial is one of 22 women who received Rhodes Scholarships from US universities this year. Women have only been allowed to apply since 1976. In its nearly 100-year history, 3,578 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships—627 of whom are women. More than 100 Rhodes Scholars worldwide will be selected in 2021.

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