A Record Year for Women and 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. This year 880 college students were endorsed by 281 colleges or universities for consideration for a Rhodes Scholarship. Some 221 applicants from 82 colleges 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 23 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 567 American women have won Rhodes Scholarships. This year 21 of the 32 Rhodes Scholarship winners are women. Only six times have women outnumbered men among the American Rhodes Scholars selected in that particular year. This is the largest group of women to be awarded Rhodes Scholarships in the program’s history.

Here are brief biographies of the 21 women who were awarded Rhodes Scholarships this year.

(L to R) Hadeel Abdallah, Alaleh Azhir, Mikaela J. Brisback, Kristina M. Correa, Leah Crowder, Nicolette C. D’Angelo, and Margaret H. Dods

Hadeel Abdallah is a senior at the University of Kentucky. She is the first Rhodes Scholar from the university since 1955. Abdallah is majoring in political sciences and Arabic and Islamic studies. Abdallah founded and directs the Bilal Scholarship Endowment, which provides scholarships to underrepresented students across Kentucky. As a Rhodes Scholar, Abdallah plans to earn master’s degrees in refugee and forced migration studies and in global governance and diplomacy.

Alaleh Azhir immigrated to the United States at the age of 14 and currently lives in New York City. She is a senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There she has a perfect grade point average and is triple majoring in biomedical engineering, computer science, and applied mathematics and statistics. In addition to her studies, Azhir mentors middle school students, edits a philosophy journal, and runs arts programs for children in under-resourced neighborhoods. In England, Azhir is planning to pursue a master’s degree in women’s and reproductive health.

Mikaela J. Brisback is a senior at the University of Mississippi. She is majoring in public policy, journalism, and English. Brisback, who was homeschooled and earlier won a Truman Scholarship, has a perfect grade point average at the university. She is a member of the Ole Miss Debate Team, an opinion columnist for the Daily Mississippian, and president of College Democrats. Brisback will study for master’s degrees in pubic policy and women’s studies at Oxford.

Kristina M. Correa is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and currently lives in Robstown, Texas. She is a senior at Stanford University in California, where she majors in biology and minors in computer science. Her senior thesis relates to cellular glycans and cancer. Correa plans on a career in computational immunology. As a Rhodes Scholar, Correa will pursue a master’s degree in integrated Immunology and computer science.

Leah Crowder is a 2018 graduate of the University of Arizona. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern and North African studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in the same discipline. Recently, she interned at the Art Anywhere Association, in Mardin, Turkey, to plan child protection activities in remote villages affected by regional violence. At Oxford, she will pursue a doctorate in international relations.

Nicolette C. D’Angelo from Hewitt, New Jersey, is a senior at Princeton University, where she is majoring in Classics. She has served as the editor-in-chief of The Nassau Literary Review, Princeton’s undergraduate literary magazine and has taught Latin to elementary schools students in Princeton. As a Rhodes Scholar, D’Angelo will study for a master’s degree in Classics.

Margaret H. Dods from Linwood, New Jersey, is a senior at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There, she is double majoring in English and Arabic and has maintained a perfect grade point average. Dods is a battalion commander, leading 750 of her fellow students. A marathon runner, Dods will study modern Middle Eastern studies as a Rhodes Scholar.

(L to R) Brittany N. Ellis, Rachel Elena Gallina, Jennifer Huang, Katherine M. Kowal, Anea B. Moore, Lia Petrose, and Katherine H. Reed

Brittany N. Ellis from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, is a senior at Harvard University, where she is major in social anthropology and archaeology. She has a perfect grade point average. Ellis also serves as news editor for the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper on campus. Ellis has spent the past two summers in Jordan on archaeology digs. She also participates in a club crew team at Harvard. As a Rhodes Scholar, Ellis will pursue a master’s degree in visual, material, and museum studies.

Rachel Elena Gallina from Lake Orion, Michigan is a graduate of Boise State University in Idaho. She earned degrees in economics and political science while maintaining a perfect grade point average. Her research has focused on combating gender-based violence in refugee camps and conflict zones. In England, Gallina will study for a master’s degree in refugee and forced migration studies and a master of business administration degree.

Jennifer Huang is a 2017 graduate of Indiana University, where she maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She majored in mathematical and social and cultural analysis. She is currently working both as the civic engagement program coordinator at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and as a policy associate in the mayor’s office in South Bend, Indiana. Huang will study for a master’s degree in the social science of the internet and for a master of public policy degree.

Katherine M. Kowal from Louisville, Colorado, is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. She holds degrees in physics and political science and was a captain of Lewis and Clark’s varsity track and field team. Kowal is a science and technology policy fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses where she consults on space weather and space nuclear power. She plans to obtain a master’s degree in geography and environment at Oxford.

Anea B. Moore is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in law and minoring in Africana studies. Earlier, this year Moore was named a Truman Scholar. Her sociology research has focused on issues related to gentrification, race, class, and family engagement and well-being. As a Rhodes Scholar, Moore plans to study for master’s degrees in evidence-based social intervention and in comparative international education.

Lia Petrose was born and raised in Ethiopia but then lived in Laurel, Maryland. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in neuroscience and economics with a minor in chemistry. She has conducted research in Malawi concerning the cost-effectiveness of health information management systems. Since graduating from college, Petrose has worked as a research assistant in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In England, Petrose plans to study for degrees in computer science and philosophy.

Katherine H. Reed from Arnold, Maryland, is a senior at Princeton University. While maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Reed is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history with certificates in Latin American studies and Spanish. Reed is a two-time recipient of Princeton University’s Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and serves as the president of the Princeton University Language Project. Reed will be enrolled in the master’s degree program in development studies at Oxford.

(L to R) Serene K. Singh, Rhea C. Stark, Sarah Tress, Madison L. Tung, Laila Ujayli, Claire R. Wang, and Kristiana L. Yao

Serene K. Singh is a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder where she is majoring in political science and journalism, with a minor in leadership studies. Singh is Chief Justice of the Student Government Supreme Court, founder and chair of the National Sikh Youth Program and president of the university’s Indian Student Association. At Oxford, Singh plans to study for master’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice, and evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.

Rhea C. Stark from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a 2018 graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. At Brown she maintained a perfect grade point average while majoring in archaeology and the ancient world and Middle East studies. She also counseled high school students as a certified sexual health educator at a local high school. While studying at Oxford, Stark will read for a master’s degree in Islamic art and archaeology.

Sarah Tress is a medical engineering major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a perfect 5.0 grade point average. Tress is the captain of the MIT women’s club soccer team and a member of the MIT Dance Troupe. She invented a cost-effective inflatable wheelchair seat cushion made out of bike inner tubes for wheelchairs users in developing countries which helps reduce infections from pressure sores. Tress plans to obtain a master’s degree in development studies at Oxford.

Madison L. Tung, from Santa Monica, California, is a senior at the United States Air Force Academy where she is majoring in mathematics and humanities and minoring in Chinese. She is a six-time All-American, national champion in women’s wrestling, and holds a black belt in the Korean martial art of Hapkido. At Oxford, Tung will read for master’s degrees in computer science and global governance and diplomacy.

Laila Ujayli graduated from Ohio State University in the spring of 2018 with degrees in international relations and English. Before coming to Ohio State, Ujayli spent much of her childhood in Syria and Saudi Arabia. She is currently a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at Win Without War in Washington, D.C. As a Rhodes Scholar, Ujayli will pursue master’s degrees in refugee and forced migration studies and world literatures.

Claire R. Wang from North Salt Lake City, Utah, is a senior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where she is majoring in environmental science and policy. She previously won Truman and Udall scholarships. Wang is president of the Duke Climate Coalition. Her research is focused on the development of clean energy. Wang plans to earn master’s degrees in environmental change and management and global governance and diplomacy.

Kristiana L. Yao from Naperville, Illinois, is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Miami in Florida. She is currently a Dunn Fellow at the State of Illinois where she advances policy in health, human services, and public safety. At the University of Miami, Yao had a perfect grade point average while double majoring in public health and business administration with a concentration in healthcare management. At Oxford, Yao will study for a master’s degree in comparative social policy.

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