A record number of women and immigrants are now Rhodes Scholars

·MAKERS
Alaleh Azhir, a 21-year-old senior at Johns Hopkins University, is among the next crop of American Rhodes Scholars, which has more women than any other single class. (Photo: Louis-Henri Merino/AP)
Alaleh Azhir, a 21-year-old senior at Johns Hopkins University, is among the next crop of American Rhodes Scholars, which has more women than any other single class. (Photo: Louis-Henri Merino/AP)

A record-breaking 21 women from America earned Rhodes Scholarships this year, joining the most diverse class of students in the 116-year history of the prestigious program.

“We seek outstanding young men and women of intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service,” said Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary for the Rhodes Trust, in a statement. The 32 American recipients, selected out of a pool of more than 880 applicants, “once again reflect the extraordinary diversity that characterizes the United States.”

The Rhodes Scholar program, one of the most distinguished and oldest scholarships in the world, was established in 1902 and named after British businessman and Oxford University alum Cecil John Rhodes. It was originally restricted to men from Commonwealth countries, Germany and the United States, but the criteria have broadened over time. Women became eligible to apply starting in 1976, and, since then, 567 women have earned the chance to study at Oxford for at least two years in the discipline of their choice.

Former Rhodes Scholars include MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow, former President Bill Clinton, and Susan Rice, former national security adviser.

This year’s class includes the first DACA recipient, a commander at the Naval Academy, and a Harvard Crimson reporter. It’s also worth noting that almost half of the scholars are immigrants or first-generation Americans.

Alaleh Azhir, a 21-year old senior at Johns Hopkins University, emigrated from Iran when she was 14. Now she’s hoping to study women’s and reproductive health on the path to becoming a doctor.

“I’m just a passionate advocate for women in general and that’s mostly because of my background,” she told Time. “I thought that the way I could advocate for women could be by advocating for their health.”

Kristina Correa, a senior at Stanford University, immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a young child. According to a Stanford press release, while growing up in Robstown, Texas, a small town in the southern part of the state, Correa became intrigued by logic and nature, which sparked her love of science. At Oxford, she will pursue two separate master’s degrees, one in integrated immunology and another in computer science — but she’s also focused on lifting up other students in the Latino community.

In her Rhodes application, Correa wrote, “I want to serve as a mentor for Latino students pursuing careers in science and advocate for equity in science education access.” For a full list of this year’s winners, check here.

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