Rhodes 2021 Fellows have been selected; The 32 American winners are among the most diverse ever.


The 2021 Rhodes Scholars have been announced, and they include 32 researchers from America who were selected from 953 students approved by 298 different colleges. The fellows will begin their studies at the University of Oxford next October, joining recipients from over 60 other countries.

Each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Rhodes Trust announces the names of the new Rhodes Scholarship recipients in the United States. The award, considered the most prestigious for American graduates, was established in 1903, the first batch of academics to begin their studies at Oxford in 1904.

This is the first year that the winners have been virtually selected, a process made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic that continues to sweep the world. Selection follows a two-step process. First, applicants are approved by their home college or university. This year, more than 2,300 students began the application process. Then, the selection committees of 16 American districts interview the candidates judged strongest.

The selection criteria fall into four main categories: academic excellence; the energy to use one’s talents to the maximum; attributes such as truth, courage, kindness and dedication to duty; and moral strength of character and leadership instincts.

2021 scholarship recipients

Including this year’s recipients, 3,548 Americans have now received Rhodes scholarships, representing more than 300 different colleges and universities. The 2021 class is highlighted – as in the past four years – by remarkable talent and diversity.

The 2021 scholarship recipients include a student from Southern Connecticut State University and a student from the University of California at Santa Cruz; the first time that a university was represented.

Harvard University won the highest number of US awardees from Rhodes this year, with six. Yale had three, and Duke University and the US Military Academy each had two.

Twenty-two of the 32 are students of color; ten are black, which is the highest number ever elected in a year in the United States. Nine are Americans or first generation immigrants; and one is a dreamer with an active DACA status. Seventeen of the winners are female, 14 are male and one is non-binary.

Here is just a sampling of this year’s extraordinarily talented recipients, including students who will study subjects such as history, diplomacy, energy systems, criminology, social policy, area studies, engineering sciences. and anthropology.

  • Asma Rahimyar, is a Truman scholar at Southern Connecticut State University, where she is majoring in politics and international studies while pursuing a second BA in philosophy and a minor in English. She is the daughter of Afghan refugees.
  • Lillian N. Usadi, a senior at the United States Naval Academy, majoring in electrical engineering and also served as first violin of the US Naval Academy Symphony Orchestra.
  • Santiago T. Potes, from Columbia University, has active DACA status and was one of the DACA recipients featured in a brief filed with the Supreme Court to preserve DACA.
  • Kendall M. Jeffreys is from Duke University, where she is double majoring in Environmental Science and Policy and English. She is also a writer whose novel exploring themes of sacrifice related to climate change has been accepted by the Middlebury Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference.
  • Tyrese D. Bender is a deputy brigade commander at the US Military Academy, making him the second-highest-ranking cadet in the West Point chain of command. He was also the captain of the West Point Division I track team and is a triple jumper champion.
  • Nkaziewok N. Nchinda-Pungong is a senior at Harvard College where he majored in biomedical engineering and minors in sociology. He’s working with a team to design a smartphone hemoglobin sensor for point-of-care anemia diagnosis. He is the son of Cameroonian immigrants.
  • Aryemis C. Brown majors in legal studies and human sciences at the US Air Force Academy. He commanded the Air Force Cadet Squadron, serving as the Academy’s highest ranking cadet, responsible for the welfare of 4,400 personnel.
  • Hattie J. Seten is a triple major in Political Science, World Studies, and Spanish at South Dakota State University. She is chair of the SDSU student body and led the college student-led coronavirus task force during the pandemic.
  • The list also includes a birth doula (MacKenszie Fierceton from the University of Pennsylvania), a nationally ranked boxer (Evan Walker. US Military Academy), a Peace Corp volunteer (Jackson willis, Yale) and co-founder of a not-for-profit organization serving homeless and at-risk youth (Daniel Lesman, Ohio State University).


Rhodes scholarships average around $ 70,000 per year and cover all expenses of two or three (in some cases four) years of graduate study. Recipients are free to study the full range of disciplines offered at Oxford, including life sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, mathematics and physical sciences. This year’s class seems a bit heavier in social sciences than in other fields.

Elliot F. Gerson, US Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said of this year’s class: “This year’s Rhodes US Fellows – elected independently by 16 committees across the country meeting simultaneously – reflect the remarkable diversity that characterizes and reinforces the United States … These young Americans will be traveling to Oxford next October to study in fields encompassing social, biological and physical sciences, humanities and public policy. They are already leaders and we are convinced that their contribution to the public welfare of the world will increase exponentially over the course of their careers.



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