Four Indian-Americans are among the cohort of 32 students chosen from the US as Rhodes Scholars virtually for the first time this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The diverse group, that won scholarships to the Oxford University in England, comprises immigrants and students of colour.
American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust Elliot Gerson announced the names of the 32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the US on Sunday.
The four Indian-American students include Swathi R Srinivasan, Vijayasundaram Ramasamy, Garima P Desai and Savarni Sanka.
Never before has a class of Rhodes Scholars been elected entirely virtually, with both candidates and selectors participating safely, independently and digitally, Mr Gerson said.
He said this year’s class for the prestigious scholarship reflects the remarkable diversity that characterises and strengthens the United States.
Out of the 32 students, 22 are of colour; 10 are Black, equal to the greatest number ever elected in one year in the United States, nine are first-generation Americans or immigrants and one is a Dreamer with active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Seventeen of the winners are women, 14 are men, and one is non-binary.
These bright young Americans will go to Oxford October next year to study in fields broadly across the social, biological and physical sciences, the humanities, and public policy.
They are leaders already, and we are confident that their contributions to public welfare globally will expand exponentially over the course of their careers, Mr Gerson said.
Swathi Srinivasan from Ohio is a senior at Harvard College with double concentrations in Social Studies and History of Science, with a focus on public health inequality. She is also writing a thesis for the Chemistry Department.
She was an intern at the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS in Geneva, has done extensive research and activism on the opioid epidemic, and chaired the Policy Program at the Kennedy School Institute of Politics. She is also a Ghungroo choreographer. At Oxford, she intends to do the M.Sc. in International Health and Tropical Medicine and the M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy, the press release from the Rhodes Trust said.
Vijayasundaram Ramasamy from Kansas graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2018 with a major in Public Health Studies. Since graduation, he was for one year a Special Assistant in the Baltimore City Health Department and is currently working as Policy and Budget Advisor in the Office of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, with responsibilities for the State’s COVID-19 re-opening plan.
While at Johns Hopkins, he was an active volunteer in healthcare and social services in underserved neighbourhoods. He was also co-President of the University Hindu Students Council, worked as a research and teaching assistant in public health, and has been very active in political campaigns. At Oxford, he intends to do the M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy and the Master of Public Policy, the release said.
Garima Desai, hailing from California, graduated in May 2020 from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in Environmental Studies and Economics.
She currently works as a transportation planner in Oakland, California. While at UC-Santa Cruz, she worked as a research assistant on issues related to housing and transportation. She is passionate about using economics as a tool to solve pressing climate issues. At Oxford, she plans to pursue an M.Sc. in Economics for Development and an M.Sc. in Environmental Change and Management, the release said.
Savarni Sanka from North Carolina is a senior at Wake Forest University where she majors in Politics and International Affairs and in Spanish, with a minor in Middle East and South Asia Studies.
She has a perfect academic record and is a leader of many student organisations including the Hindu Students Association and the Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees. She has also studied or done volunteer work in Spain, Morocco, and Nicaragua. Passionate about improving the welfare of migrants and marginalised people everywhere, at Oxford, she plans to do the M.Sc. in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and the Master of Public Policy.
Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. The Scholarships were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes.
Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year more than 2,300 students began the application process; 953 were endorsed by 288 different colleges and universities. Committees of Selection in each of 16 US districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them virtually for interview.
The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the US will join an international group of scholars selected from more than 60 countries around the world. In addition to the 32 Americans, scholars are also now selected from countries including Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong and India, among others.
A Rhodes Scholar should show great promise of leadership. In short, we seek outstanding young people of intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service, Mr Gerson said.
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