Though Erica Meissner and Krissy Voss will soon have Auburn in their rearview mirrors, the "Rhode" ahead is bright.
As finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, the two students will interview with district committees Nov. 19-20. Scholarship winners will be announced following the interviews.
The Rhodes Scholarship covers tuition and fees and provides a living stipend for two years of study at Oxford University in Oxford, England.
Each year, 32 students in the United States receive the award.
Meissner, senior in anthropology with a minor in sustainability, is captain and four-year member of the swim team.
"Not only is she a world-class athlete, but she is also a leader among her peers that are doing the same things she is," said Caleb Rotton, senior in psychology. "I think that sets her apart from anyone I know."
Meissner is working on her honors thesis, and while she has not picked a definite topic, she said her thesis will combine her passions for sustainability and anthropology.
If chosen for the scholarship, she will pursue master's degrees at Oxford in social anthropology and environmental change and management.
"I've spent 14, 15 years in the pool, and now it's time to move on," Meissner said. "That was scary for me for some time, but now it's starting to be exciting."
Meissner said rather than creating extra stress in her life, swimming has kept her grounded.
"Swimming in particular seems to breed a type of individual," Meissner said. "I don't know whether it breeds it or attracts it, but a lot of well-rounded individuals swim and are able to manage academics and athletics. I don't think I'm an anomaly in the swimming world."
Brett Hawke, swimming and diving coach, said Meissner's personality encompasses more than intelligence and athleticism.
"She is very dedicated, very focused, but the bottom line is she's just a nice person, and I think that really shines through, and that's what you notice the most about her," Hawke said. "Apart from her intelligence and her athletic ability, she's just a great person."
Voss, fifth-year senior in chemistry with a minor in Spanish, competed on the gymnastics team for four years.
"She has the personality where making a B is failing," said former coach Jeff Thompson. "She worked extra hard in every class from the very beginning of her freshman year at Auburn. She really became an example for all the other girls on the team."
Voss hopes to earn a master's degree at Oxford through research in ophthalmology. She is currently applying to medical schools and will defer enrollment if chosen as a Rhodes Scholar.
Voss has worked in Ghana for the nonprofit program "Unite for Sight," in addition to doing research on the visual system with chemistry professor Michael Squillacote.
"She's somebody who just decides to get something done," Squillacote said. "She's directed, but she still has this incredibly nice personality."
While ophthalmology interests her, Voss said she has not decided in which field of medicine she will practice.
"If I could just be a practicing physician, learning something new every day and helping those people around me, just as long as I'm happy, that's all I need," Voss said.
Voss said time management has been the key to her success.
"I just believe that everyone has so much potential," Voss said. "You don't have to be absolutely ridiculous to get awards like this. You just have to be passionate and work hard every day."