Eleven Women Named Rhodes Scholars

The Rhodes Scholarships, considered by many to be the most prestigious awards given to U.S. college students, were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, an industrialist who made a vast fortune in colonial Africa. According to the will of Rhodes, applicants must have “high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor.”

Each year, 32 Americans are named Rhodes Scholars. The scholarships provide funds for two or three years of graduate study at Oxford University in Britain. Rhodes Scholars from the United States join students from 14 other jurisdictions including Australia, southern Africa, Kenya, India, and Canada. All told, about 80 Rhodes Scholars worldwide are selected each year for study at Oxford.

This year, about 1,600 American students sought Rhodes Scholarships. Of those, 877 were endorsed for selection by 305 different colleges and universities.

Women were first included in Rhodes Scholarships in 1976. This year there are 11 women and 21 men. Since 1976, 498 women have been named Rhodes Scholars. There have been only four times, the last being in 2011, when women outnumbered men among the American Rhodes Scholars selected in that particular year.

(L to R) Top row: Sarah M. Bufkin, Rebecca A. Esselstein, Ruth C. Fong, Anisha N. Gururaj, Rachel V. Harmon, and Maya I. Krishnan. Bottom row: Jane Darby Menton, Kate L. Nussenbaum, Rachel A. Skokowski, Emily E. Witt, and Sarah E. Yerima.

Sarah M. Bufkin is a 2013 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in creative writing. She is spending the current academic year at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as a Mitchell Scholar, where she is studying for a master’s degree in moral, legal, and political philosophy. She will pursue a Ph.D. in politics at Oxford.

Rebecca A. Esselstein is from Dayton, Ohio, and currently is a senior at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. She is ranked first in her class. Esselstein is a second team Academic All-American in track and also is a member of the academy’s cross country team. She hopes to become an astronaut. At Oxford, she will study for a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

Ruth C. Fong is a senior at Harvard University where she is majoring in computer science. She taught three undergraduate courses in computer science at Harvard. She was active in a dance troupe and in the Big Sibs program in the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston. Fong will study for a master’s degree in computer science at Oxford.

Anisha N. Gururaj, from Chesterfield, Missouri, is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is majoring in chemical and biological engineering with a minor in energy studies. Along with two colleagues, she holds a patent for a low-cost blood warmer that can be used by wounded soldiers on the battlefield. At Oxford she will study for a master of public policy degree and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Rachel V. Harmon is from Champaign, Illinois. She is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she is majoring in industrial and labor relations. Before starting her college career, Harmon was an AmeriCorps volunteer at a rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta. She plans on studying for a master’s degree in evidence-based social policy at Oxford.

Maya I. Krishnan is from Rockville, Maryland. She is a senior at Stanford University where she is majoring in philosophy. She is also completing minors in computer sciences and classics. She operates an interactive online database about ancient Greece and Rome. She also is an accomplished oboist. At Oxford, Krishnan will study for master’s degrees in theology and the social science of the internet.

Jane Darby Menton is from Tallahassee, Florida, and is a senior at Yale University. She is double majoring in history and global affairs. She is the managing editor of the Yale Daily News, the student newspaper. She has served as an intern for Anderson Cooper at CNN and aspires to be a foreign correspondent. She will pursue a master’s degree in modern eastern studies at Oxford.

Kate L. Nussenbaum, of Newton, Massachusetts, is a senior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She is majoring in neuroscience with a minor in science and society. She is the senior editor of the Brown Daily Herald, the student newspaper on campus, and associate editor of The Science and Society Review. Nussenbaum will pursue a master’s degree in research in experimental psychology at Oxford.

Rachel A. Skokowski, from Palo Alto, California, is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey, where she is majoring in French. She has interned at several museums and is committed to fostering connections between art museums and local communities. She is a three-season varsity athlete in track and cross country at Princeton. Skokowski will study for a master’s degree in modern languages at Oxford.

Emily E. Witt is a senior at Stanford University, where she is majoring in human biology with a minor in psychology. She is president of the Stanford chapter of Amnesty International and has conducted research on nutrition in Guatemala. At Oxford, Witt plans to study for a master’s degree in neuroscience and a master’s degree in research in experimental psychology.

Sarah E. Yerima is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. She is majoring in sociology. During the summer of 2013, Yerima completed an intensive program in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. She will enroll in a two-year, master’s degree program in politics at Oxford. After studying at Oxford, Yerima plans to enter a joint J.D./Ph.D. and hopes to become a professor of law.

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