The Rhodes Trust

Five African-American students were among 32 American men and women recently announced by the Rhodes Trust as recipients of the American Rhodes Scholarship. These students will study at the University of Oxford in England for two to three years with all academic expenses paid.

The American Rhodes Scholarship, according to the website, is dubbed as “the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world.”  The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British businessman who played an integral part in the colonization of African countries while making a fortune in mining and politics in Africa. Rhodes was a noted philanthropist who founded the scholarship in partnership with John McCall MacBain and other benefactors.

Awardees are not just chosen on their academia merits; they also must embody commitment “to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be conscious of inequities,” according to a news release from the office of the American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, Elliot Gerson.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) notes that the first African-American Rhodes Scholar was Alain Leroy Locke in 1907.  John Edgar Wideman, a widely respected author, would follow to become the second African-American student chosen for this prestigious scholarship 50 years later.

About 877 students were endorsed by 305 colleges and universities.  According to the news release, about 207 finalists from 86 colleges and universities were said to have been selected in 16 different geographic districts.

Here are the five African-American students that were chosen for the scholarship:

Robert Fisher is a senior at the University of Chattanooga in Tennessee majoring in political science and minoring in history and Africana studies.  Fisher was previously a Truman Scholar recipient and a student body president. He will be pursuing his master’s degree in comparative social policy at the University of Oxford.

Rachel V. Harmon is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Harmon is majoring in industrial and labor relations. Harmon volunteered as a reading tutor with Americorps at a rural elementary school located in the Mississippi Delta. At Oxford, Harmon will be studying for her master’s degree in evidence-based social policy.

Tayo A. Sanders is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in materials science. He is the recipient of a Goldwater scholarship and has participated in research into nanotechnology which he presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. Sanders also conducted research in the nanomaterials lab at the University of Strasbourg in France. He plans to pursue a doctorate in materials science at Oxford.

Sarah Yerima is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey, where she is majoring in sociology. Her academic portfolio consists of studying in Brazil, where she researched racial prejudice in a different historical context as well as participating in an intensive Portuguese program in Rio de Janeiro. Yerima plans to go for her doctorate in comparative government at Oxford.

Ridwan Y. Hassen is a senior at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire majoring in computer science with a concentration in neuroscience. As a son of Somalian and Ethiopian refugees, Hassen is passionate about helping his large family. He was a volunteer coordinator for the NAACP, and, while attending Emory University, founded its first AIDS activist organization. Hassen plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Oxford.