Fourteen American Women Awarded Rhodes Scholarships

Recently, the Rhodes Trust announced the 32 American winners of Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study at Oxford University in England. Being named a Rhodes Scholar is considered among the highest honors that can be won by a U.S. college student.

The scholarships 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.”

This year, more than 2,500 students applied to be Rhodes Scholars. More than 866 students were endorsed by 299 college or university for consideration for a Rhodes Scholarship. Some 228 applicants from 100 different college and universities were named finalists. Then, two Rhodes Scholars were selected from each of 16 districts across the United States. Students may apply from either the district where they reside or the district where they attend college. The 32 American Rhodes Scholars will join students from 20 other jurisdictions around the world as Rhodes Scholars. The Rhodes Trust pays all tuition and fees for scholarship winners to study at Oxford. A stipend for living and travel expenses is also provided.

Women were first included in Rhodes Scholarships in 1976. Since that time 545 American women have won Rhodes Scholarships. This year 14 of the 32 Rhodes Scholarship winners are women. Only five times have women outnumbered men among the American Rhodes Scholars selected in that particular year. The last time was a year ago.

Here are brief biographies of the 14 women who were awarded Rhodes Scholarships this year. Seven of the 14 women winners are African Americans.

Simone M. Askew is a senior at the United States Military Academy where she is majoring in international history. Askew holds the top leadership position at West Point, the Brigade Commander of the United States Corps of Cadets. She is the first African American female in the 215-year history of West Point to hold this post. Lauded for her leadership abilities, she received the Pinnacle Award from the Black Women’s Agenda in Washington, D.C.  At Oxford, she will study for a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention.

Mary Clare Beytagh, from Dallas Texas, is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is double majoring in biology and literature. During her time at MIT, Beytagh has conducted cancer research at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Rockefeller University in New York. Beytagh is also an accomplished ballerina. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in integrated immunology at Oxford and go on to a career as an oncologist and cancer researcher.

Camille A. Borders is majoring in history as a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. Her senior thesis focuses on how African-American women emerging from slavery understood and practiced their sexual lives and how slavery affected relationships. Borders was active in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Borders is a member of Washington University Slam Poetry. At Oxford, Borders will pursue a master’s degree in social and economic history.

Jasmine Brown is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, where she majors in biology, with a concentration in neuroscience. She has also done cancer research at the Broad Institute, pulmonary research at Johns Hopkins, and studied behavioral science at the University of Miami. At Washington University she continues extensive research to identify protective genes against cognitive defects following West Nile induced encephalitis. Brown founded the Minority Association of Rising Scientists and serves as its president. Brown will study for a doctorate in physiology, anatomy and genetics at Oxford.

Madeleine K. Chang of San Francisco is a senior at Stanford University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history. She serves as the co-president of the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford. She speaks Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew. Change has served as a columnist for the Stanford Daily and for the San Francisco Chronicle. At Oxford, Chang will study for a master’s degree in the social science of the internet.

Tania N. Fabo is a senior at Harvard College where she concentrates in human development and regenerative biology. A native of Germany, Fabo is the daughter of Cameroonian parents. She has done cancer research throughout her college career. Fabo has created and co-directed the first annual Black Health Matters Conference at Harvard, is president of the Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers, and is active in singing groups. Fabo will study for a master’s degree in oncology at Oxford.

Chelsea A. Jackson is a senior at Emory University in Atlanta, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science and African-American studies and a master’s degree in political science. She is a Truman Scholar. Jackson’s research explores how civil rights activists and government officials deployed the criminal justice system to achieve diametrically opposed goals. Her master’s thesis will focus on prosecutorial discretion and race. At Oxford, Jackson will seek a master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice.

Nadine K. Jawad, the daughter of immigrants and refugees from Lebanon, is a senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is majoring in public policy and biology. Earlier, Jawad was chosen as a Truman Scholar. At the University of Michigan, Jawad has served as student body vice president and also oversees campus-wide nonpartisan efforts to expand voter registration. At Oxford, Jawad will study for a master’s degree in international health and tropical medicine.

Thamara V. Jean, is a senior at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College of the City University of New York. She is Hunter College’s first Rhodes Scholar. Jean majors in political science and media analysis and criticism. She completed her senior thesis in her junior year on the Black Lives Matter movement which was subsequently published in The Journal of Politics and Society. Jean is especially interested in the dialectic between Afro-pessimism and Black optimism and how that shapes African-American political thought. Jean has worked at Democracy Works and Generation Citizen, and was a producer at the CUNY Film Festival. Jean will pursue a master’s degree in political theory at Oxford.

Alexis L. Kallen of Ventura, California, is a senior at Stanford University, where she is majoring in political science and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Earlier, she was named a Truman Scholar. At Stanford, Kallen is the chair of Stanford in Government and the Western United States Regional Leader for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation. At Oxford University, Kallen will pursue a master’s degree in development studies.

Clara C. Lepard graduated last spring from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in zoology. She is currently working as a research assistant in the Research on the Ecology of Carnivores and their Prey Laboratory at Michigan State. While an undergraduate, Lepard served as a sexual assault and relationship violence prevention peer educator. She will pursue a Ph.D. in zoology at Oxford. Her research interests focus on the behavioral ecology of large carnivores, especially lions in East Africa.

Samantha M. Mack is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she majored in political science and English. She will receive a master’s degree in English with an emphasis on literary theory from the university this May. She has a perfect academic record and is the first Rhodes Scholar from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Born in a remote village on the Aleutian Islands, Mack plans to study for a master’s degree in political theory while at the University of Oxford.

Naomi T. Mburu, is a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she studies chemical engineering. She is the university’s first Rhodes Scholar. A Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, she has co-authored two peer-reviewed journal articles and has given 11 research presentations, one of which resulted in her winning the 2016 National Society of Black Engineers Regional Conference award for the best oral presentation. She has interned at Intel and conducted research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. Mburu plans to study for a doctorate in engineering science at Oxford.

Gabrielle C. Stewart of San Dimas, California, is a senior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in classical language. Throughout her college career, she has maintained a 4.0 grade point average. Stewart is a founding executive board member of the Duke Coalition for Alleviating Poverty. She sings and plays the guitar, piano, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and bass. At Oxford, she will study for a master’s degree in Classics.