Record number of Rhodes scholars are Black students in 2017

Record number of Rhodes scholars are Black students in 2017
Simone Askew of West Point (File photo courtesy of the United States Department of the Army).

The 2017 group of U.S. Rhodes scholars will include 10 African American students out of 32 selected, the most ever in a single Rhodes class.

This class will also include a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before.

The Rhodes Trust on Sunday announced the men and women chosen for post-graduate studies at Oxford University in England, including: the first black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point; a wrestler at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (better known as M.I.T.) who’s helping develop a prosthetic knee for use in the developing world; and a Portland, Oregon, man who has studied gaps in his hometown’s “sanctuary city” policy protecting immigrants in the country illegally from deportation.

This year’s selections — independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflects the rich diversity of America,” Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in a news release announcing the winners Sunday, according to the The Washington Post. “They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities.”

The scholarships, worth about $70,000 a year according to the Rhodes Trust, is considered by many to be the most prestigious available to American students and will cover all expenses for two or three years of study starting next October.

The 32 winners were selected from 866 applicants who were endorsed by 299 colleges and universities. Four of the institutions had winners for the first time: Hunter College at the City University of New York; Temple University in Philadelphia; the University of Alaska in Anchorage; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Here is the list of black Rhodes scholars for 2018, according to the The Rhodes Trust and Associated Press:

  1. Simone Askew’s international-history undergraduate thesis examined rape as a tool for genocide. She is the first black woman to serve as captain of the Corps of Cadets, which is the highest position in West Point’s chain of command.
  2. Camille A. Borders was active in the Ferguson, Mo., protests and founded Washington University Students in Solidarity to address police brutality and racial profiling. Her senior thesis investigated how African-American women emerging from slavery understood and practiced their sexual lives and how slavery affected relationships.
  3. Jasmine Brown will earn her Ph.D. in physiology, anatomy and genetics at Oxford. She fights against implicit bias in laboratories and has done cancer research at the Broad Institute, pulmonary research at John Hopkins, behavioral science at the University of Miami and neuroscience at Washington University, where she is researching protective genes against cognitive defects following West Nile-induced encephalitis.
  4. Tania N. Fabo is a Harvard senior in human development and regenerative biology. Fabo was born in Germany to Cameroonian parents and is a U.S. immigrant. He created the first Black Health Matters conference at Harvard University. She has studied cancer throughout her college career and plans to study oncology at Oxford.
  5. JaVaughn T. “J.T.” Flowers graduated from Yale with a degree in political science and started an organization to make sure low-income students receive an equal education. Flowers played basketball at Yale and started a program that changed the university’s financial aid system.
  6. Hazim Hardeman is Temple University’s first Rhodes scholar. After attending inner-city-Philadelphia high schools, enrolling in a community college and finishing with high honors, Hardeman graduated from Temple magna cum laude. He has studied and written about pedagogy, race and politics, gun control, hip-hop and African-American intellectual history. He works as a Philadelphia substitute teacher.
  7. Chelsea A. Jackson is also a Truman scholar and helped revive Atlanta’s chapter of the NAACP. She is pursuing a master at Emory; her thesis will examine prosecutorial discretion and race. Jackson is also the musical director of AHANA A Capella, meaning that she is smart and she can sing. However, since she is in Atlanta, the correct pronunciation is “saaang.
  8. Thamara V. Jean completed her senior thesis on the Black Lives Matter movement during her junior year at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College of the City University of New York. It was subsequently published in the Journal of Politics and Society. She then followed up this research by studying black nationalism at Harvard during the 1960s. During my junior year of college, I accomplished a similarly impressive feat when I ran a Boston during a highly contested game of spades. (I did renege, though.)
  9. Naomi T. Mburu won the 2016 National Society of Black Engineers Regional Conference Award for the best oral presentation and has given 11 research presentations and co-authored two peer-reviewed journal articles. Mburu, a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, plans to earn a D.Phil. in engineering science at Oxford.
  10. Jordan D. Thomas, a senior at Princeton, plans to study evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at Oxford. He has already interned at the Office for Civil Rights’ Program Legal Group at the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative. Thomas was also a Fulbright Summer Institute fellow at the University of Bristol studying the culture, heritage and history of the U.K.

Ironically, the Rhodes scholarship was created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, a prominent British philanthropist and mining magnate who has is considered one of the architects of South African apartheid. Despite Rhodes’ personal history of White supremacy and brutal British colonialism, the scholarships which bear his name have earned a legacy as one of the academic world’s most important achievements. Also, prior to Zimbabwe obtaining its independence in April 1980, the African nation was a British colony named “Rhodesia” after Mr. Rhodes. 

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