The newest cohort of US Rhodes Scholars has been announced. The 32 chosen students will have their postgraduate studies in Oxford fully funded by the Rhodes Trust. They will commence their studies in October 2023 in fields of social sciences, humanities, and biological and physical sciences.
The Rhodes Scholarship is a prestigious award founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1902. It financially supports international students intending to pursue their postgraduate studies in Oxford. The average total value consists of $75,000 per year, which covers tuition fees, stipends for necessary expenses, and travel costs. Annually, over 100 scholarships are awarded to recipients of over 60 countries.
In order to receive a Rhodes scholarship, applicants must first submit an application packet, which includes an endorsement from their university. They are then screened by 16 independent district committees and the strongest applicants will be chosen to attend interviews. Most districts invited 14 or more applicants for an interview. These were conducted entirely virtually for the third time consecutively, due to Covid-19; however, the Rhodes Trust hopes to return to in-person interviews and selection again next year. In total, more than 2500 students applied for this cycle, out of which 840 were endorsed by their university, and 235 reached the final stage.
The American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust explained that the criteria “first and fundamentally [include] academic excellence”. However, scholars “should also have great ambition for social impact, and an uncommon ability to work with others to achieve one’s goals. They should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be acutely conscious of inequities.” The official selection criteria was introduced by Cecil Rhodes.
This year’s selection includes 16 female and 16 male students. The university with the largest intake was Harvard, boasting six students. This was closely followed by Yale, where five students received the award, and MIT and Columbia, with three students each. The trust said that there was no first-time winning institution. The students themselves come from various backgrounds and have undertaken diverse internships, volunteer experiences and extracurriculars. One chosen scholar, Sophie Huttner, spent six years as a volunteer interpreter in Spanish and Portuguese for women fleeing gender-based violence. Another, Veer Sangha, researched how artificial intelligence can revolutionise health care, wrote four peer-reviewed journal articles and has a patent relating to hidden cardiovascular disease.
The award has been critiqued in the past due to it only being open to “male students” up until 1976, a historic exclusion of black recipients for half of the 20th century, and Cecil Rhodes’ white supremacist views and colonial history – Rhodes founded the diamond mining and engineering company De Beers. In 2021, students took to the streets to protest for his statue in Oriel to be removed – yet, the ‘Rhodes Must Fall Oxford’ movement was unsuccessful in doing this.
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