Flinn Scholar Anthony Rusk brings interest in science and policy to Arizona Board of Regents

September 10, 2019

By Matt Ellsworth

By Brian Powell
Flinn Foundation

Anthony Rusk is in elite company.

Of all the undergraduate students attending Arizona’s three public universities, only two serve as student regents.

And the Class of 2017 Flinn Scholar from Bullhead City, who is majoring in neuroscience and philosophy, politics, economics and law (PPEL) at the University of Arizona, is one of them.

Rusk was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey earlier this year to a two-year term to the Arizona Board of Regents, which serves as the governing board for Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and UA.

“For me, it’s important to represent the opinions of all the students, all the campuses, and advocate for students in general and make sure the students are one of the stakeholders at these meetings,” Rusk says.

He sees the cost of attending college, retention, and mental health as major issues impacting students.

A Flinn Scholar first

Rusk was born in Bullhead City, and outside of four years living in Nevada, spent his entire life before starting college in the northwest Arizona city of more than 40,000 people across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nev.

He is the first Flinn Scholar from Mohave High School. During high school, Rusk was the captain of speech and debate, vice president and assistant district governor of Interact, and student-body treasurer.   

“I wasn’t planning on applying for Flinn, but I thought maybe, maybe I’ll get lucky and get an interview,” Rusk says.

He did, twice—first as a Flinn Scholarship Semifinalist, then as a Finalist—and in April 2017 was named a Flinn Scholar.

When he entered college, Rusk said he was confident he was bound for medical school and a career as a physician. But today, he is leaning toward a career in higher education or nonprofit and social-impact consulting.

“I came into college with the mindset that I would like to study the things that I found interesting and then meld those things into a field of work that I was passionate about,” he says. “I find the way individuals think and the way societies operate as fascinating.”

Rusk recently finished an externship with Boston Consulting Group in Chicago and hopes to return next summer for an internship with the global management-consulting firm.  He also spent two months in Portugal this summer, an experience made possible by the Flinn Scholars Program’s study-abroad benefit. He had previously visited China for a three-week seminar after his freshman year with his entire Flinn Scholars class.

“I think being a Flinn Scholar doesn’t open doors for you—you still have to grab the door and crank it open—but it shows you a variety of doors,” Rusk says. “There are more opportunities available because you are a Flinn Scholar and more people to talk to, to get advice.”

Outside the classroom, Rusk has served as policy director for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, Freshmen Class Council president, philanthropy chair of the UA Sophos Sophomore Honorary, and as a member of the UA Faculty Governance Undergraduate Council.

Student Regent

Rusk’s first year as a student regent is as a non-voting member, shadowing the other student regent and learning about state education policy and politics. He will have a voting role in his second year, beginning in July 2020.

In addition, the Flinn Scholar will serve this year as a member of the Audit Committee and Research and Health Sciences Committee.

“My majors teach me how to think critically when looking at data and come to conclusions while considering the context of the situation which will be highly beneficial for the student regent position,” Rusk says.

During the student-regent application process, Rusk first had to interview with a committee of students and administrators and then advanced to interview with the governor.

“It was more casual then I was expecting, and it was a conversation of him getting to know who we are as people, what we stand for and believe in,” Rusk says.

Future Flinn Scholars

The Flinn Scholars Program is accepting applications for the 2020 Flinn Scholarship from Arizona high-school seniors through Monday, Sept. 16, a deadline that is on Rusk’s mind.

Since receiving the scholarship, he has worked to ensure students from his rural Mohave High School are aware of the merit-based scholarship and all it has to offer the 20 students selected each year, on top of the monetary value of more than $120,000.

Rusk recently emailed a former teacher to spread the word around campus about the scholarship application. Rusk says he’s had students contact him for tips on how to strengthen their essays or present themselves in the most competitive way.

Rusk has been impressed not only with the intellect but the caliber of people of his fellow Flinn Scholars.

“The Flinn Scholarship builds a sense of confidence and assurance in yourself,” Rusk says. “And the Flinn Scholars community—being surrounded by a high level of intelligence and inspiring people—drives you to be better and learn about issues and ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have.”