Last month, GBN published a post via jbhe.com on four African-American women who won Rhodes Scholarships to study at the University of Oxford in England. But in addition to the 32 Americans who are awarded Rhodes Scholarships each year, students from other countries that were part of the British Commonwealth are also awarded the prestigious scholarships.
Prince Abudu, a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was awarded one of the Rhodes Scholarships given to students from Zimbabwe. Abudu is the fourth student from Morehouse College to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.
Abudu grew up on a rural farm in Zimbabwe. He is majoring in computer science at Morehouse. When he travels to Oxford next fall, Abudu will pursue a master’s degree in computer science and an MBA.
Abudu said that “I’m blessed and excited. This would not have been possible without the support of my family in Zimbabwe and the new family I have been favored with at Morehouse College. This is an opportunity that I have dreamed of all my life.”
The Rhodes Trust has announced the latest class of 32 American students who will study at the University of Oxford as Rhodes Scholars. Being named a Rhodes Scholar is considered among the highest honors that can be won by a U.S. college student.
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 this year’s 32 American Rhodes Scholars, it appears that four are African Americans. All four are women.
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.
Logan C. Jackson from Lexington, Kentucky, is a senior at Northeastern University in Boston, 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.
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.
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.”
In 1907 Alain LeRoy Locke, later a major philosopher and literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was selected as a Rhodes Scholar to study at Oxford University. It is generally believed that at the time of the award the Rhodes committee did not know that Locke was Black until after he had been chosen. It would be more than 50 years later, in 1962, until another African American would be named a Rhodes Scholar.
That year, John Edgar Wideman, now a famed author as well as a professor at Brown University, was selected. Other African Americans who have won Rhodes Scholarships include Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School, Kurt Schmoke, former mayor of Baltimore, and Franklin D. Raines, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and former CEO of Fannie Mae. In 1978, Karen Stevenson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first African-American woman selected as a Rhodes Scholar.
Namwali Serpell, an associate professor of English at the University of California, is the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize, honoring the best writing by an African author. The award was presented on July 7 at a ceremony at the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. Zoë Wicomb, a South African author who was chair of the judges committee for this year’s Caine Prize, said that “from a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading. Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects.”
Dr. Serpell is a native of Zambia and came to the United States at the age of 9. Her parents returned to Zambia in 2002. Her father is a professor of psychology at the University of Zambia and her mother is an economist who has worked for the United Nations. Professor Serpell was honored for her short story “The Sack,” which can be viewed here. She is the first author from Zambia to win the Caine Prize.
The Caine Prize comes with a cash award of £10,000. Dr. Serpell announced that she would share the prize money with the other authors who were on the short list for the Caine Prize. As the winner of the Caine Prize, Dr. Serpell will have the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. Dr. Serpell joined the faculty at Berkeley in 2008 and was promoted and granted tenure in 2014. She is the author of Seven Modes of Uncertainty (Harvard University Press, 2014). Dr. Serpell is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English language and literature from Harvard University.