On Sunday, the Rhodes Trust announced that 32 winners were chosen to continue their post-graduate studies at the prestigious Oxford University in England. Out of the 32 students chosen, 10 were African Americans, making it the highest number of blacks in history for a class. These Rhodes scholarships are considered to be the most prestigious awards available to American students. The funds cover all expenses for up to 2 to 3 years of schooling, and may allow funding for their projects for a total of 4 years. Out of 848 applications from 299 different colleges and universities, the group selected is an international group of scholars from more than 64 countries; about 100 scholars will be selected this year with each receiving 68,000 per year for their education.
A few of the winners have dedicated their studies to racial, economic, and social justice.
Simone Askew is first black woman to serve as first captain of the 4,400-member Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy – the highest position in the cadet chain of command at West Point. During her undergrad studies, her thesis was based on the use of rape as a tool of genocide; she plans to continue studying this topic while at Oxford.
Tania Fabo of Harvard University, created the first Black Health Matters Conference at Harvard. She will research Oncology while at Oxford.
Samantha Mack, from the University of Anchorage, Alaska was this school’s first ever Rhodes Scholar recipient. An Aluet woman raised in a remote village, her parents brought her to Alaska for better educational opportunities. Her plans are to study political theory from an indigenous / feminist perspective.
Thamara V. Jean from the City University of New York, completed her thesis on the Black Lives Matter movement.
JaVaughn T. “J.T.” Flowers of Yale University started an organization while in college that provides mentors, tutors and summer stipends to low income students, insuring they receive the same academic opportunities as others. He also worked with Dem. U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer where he researched the high cost of phone/video calls in prison and how these phone companies are basically ripping off inmates, making it harder for them to keep in touch with families, in turn making it harder for them to readjust once they return to society.
Calvin Runnels from the Georgia Institute of Technology, is also the programs second transgender student. He has organized rallies for immigrants, helped to increase the number of gender neutral bathrooms on campus, and plans to study biochemistry at Oxford. He will research the origins if the ribosome, which may provide details of the origins of life.
Matthew Chun, captain of MIT’s wrestling team, has researched the impact of intellectual property law on innovation. He also has experience as a patent technology specialist. He’s the leader of a team developing prosthetic knees for use in the developing countries, and he will be studying jurisprudence while at Oxford.
“This year’s selections – independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflects the rich diversity of America. They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities.” Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust