Sixteen Women Awarded Rhodes Scholarships

rhodesThe 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.

Women were first included in Rhodes Scholarships in 1976. Since that time 514 American women have won Rhodes Scholarships. 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.

This year’s class of Rhodes Scholars was chosen from a pool of 869 students who were endorsed by 316 different colleges and universities. There were 208 finalists from 93 colleges and universities that were selected in 16 different geographic districts. Two students from each district were chosen as Rhodes Scholars. Students can enter the competition in the district in which they reside or the district where they attended college.

Of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars selected this year, 16 are women.


(L to R) Katherine K. Clifton, Ilhan A. Dahir, Jennifer C. Hebert, and Grace E. Huckins

Katherine K. Clifton from Honolulu, Hawaii, is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University in New Jersey, where she majored in English. After high school, she spent a year in Serbia creating an English language program. She returned to Serbia after college to develop a theatrical play. At Oxford, Clifton will study for a master’s degree in Russian and Eastern European studies and a master’s degree in migration studies.

Ilhan A. Dahir is a graduate of Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and political science. She is now teaching English in Turkey as a Fulbright Fellow. Dahir is the daughter of Somali immigrants. Dahir plans to earn two master’s degrees at Oxford, one on refugee and forced migration studies and one in global governance and diplomacy.

Jennifer C. Hebert is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in the biological basis of behavior. She is a member of the university’s rowing team and the U.S. national rowing team. Her senior thesis involves research on the effects of nicotine exposure or stress on neural circuitry. Hebert will study for a master’s degree in psychiatry at Oxford.

Grace E. Huckins is from Weston, Massachusetts. She is a senior at Harvard University majoring in neurobiology and physics. She is president of the Radcliffe Union of Students and arts chair for the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. Huckins has qualified for the U.S. National and Junior Olympic fencing championships. At Oxford, Huckins will study for a Ph.D. in neuroscience.


(L to R) Rivka B. Hyland, Logan C. Jackson, Sarah B. Kovan, and Emily M. Mediate

Rivka B. Hyland, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a senior at Havard University. She is majoring in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, specializing in Islamic studies. She is proficient in eight languages. Hyland is captain of an intramural rowing team and has been an activist on campus regarding the issue of sexual assault. She plans to study for a master’s degree in scholastic theology at Oxford.

Logan C. Jackson from Lexington, Kentucky, is a senior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, majoring in structural engineering. She has a perfect grade point average so far in her undergraduate career. Jackson is president of the Northeastern University chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She plays the viola in the university’s symphony orchestra. At Oxford, Jackson plans to study for a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy.

Sarah B. Kovan is a senior at Michigan State University in East Lansing. This spring she will receive bachelor’s degrees in comparative cultures and politics and human biology. She studied abroad at Hebrew University and worked in Israel’s national ambulance corps. At Michigan State, Kovan was the starting midfielder for the women’s soccer team. Kovan will study for a master’s degree in geography and the environment at Oxford.

Emily M. Mediate is from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She graduated last May from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies and a minor in international development studies. Since graduation Mediate has been a junior desk officer for Ethiopia for the U.S. State Department. At Oxford, Mediate will study for a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.


(L to R) Leah S. Michalove, Rachel E. Mullin, Megan S. Musilli, and Ashley E. Orr

Leah S. Michalove is a senior at Emory University in Atlanta. She is majoring in Eastern and South Asian studies with a minor in anthropology. She has spent a semester studying abroad in Morocco. She tutors students at Emory in both Hebrew and Arabic and is active in the university’s theater community. At Oxford, Michalove plans to pursue a master’s degree in social anthropology.

Rachel E. Mullin is a graduate of the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, Minnesota. She has been a Truman Scholar and is currently teaching English in Malaysia. She has conducted research in Bosnia Herzegovina, Thailand, and India. Mullin will pursue a master’s degree in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford.

Megan S. Musilli of El Dorado Hills, California, is a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She is majoring in mathematics and will train to be a Navy physician. Her research focuses on traumatic brain injury. At the Naval Academy, Musilli has been a member of the crew team. She will pursue a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford.

Ashley E. Orr is a senior at Youngstown State University in Ohio, where she is president of the student government association. She is the first Rhodes Scholar in the history of Youngstown State University. Orr is majoring in mathematics and economics. She has studied at the London School of Economics and has worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. At Oxford, Orr will pursue a master’s degree in economics.


(L to R) Cameron M. Platt, Laura C. Roberts, Hannah G. Schneider, and Ericka M. Wheeler

Cameron M. Platt of Santa Barbara, California, is a senior at Princeton University. She will earn a bachelor’s degree in English this spring. Her senior thesis involves the study of critical new ways to understand female selfhood. Platt serves as president of the Princeton University Players. At Oxford, Platt will pursue a master’s degree in English and American studies and a master’s degree in medieval studies.

Laura C. Roberts, from Dallas, Texas, is a senior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She is a history major and is pursuing minors in religion and political science. Her historical work is focused on questions of gender and religion in the early modern period. Roberts plans to earn a master’s degree in British and European history at Oxford.

Hannah G. Schneider of Hamden, Connecticut, is a summa cum laude graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian, with a concentration in government. An accomplished violinist, she has studied at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. She is fluent in Russian and proficient in Chinese, Italian, and Hebrew. Schneider is planning to earn a master’s degree in music at Oxford.

Ericka M. Wheeler is the first African American woman from the state of Mississippi to win a Rhodes Scholarship. She is a senior at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. She is majoring in history and English and also taking a pre-med curriculum. Wheeler is co-president of the Millsaps College Gospel Choir and president of the Intercultural Student Organization. Wheeler plans to study for a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford.

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