Five Black Students Named Rhodes Scholars


By: Lynette Holloway, The Root


Five black students have been selected as Rhodes scholars in one of the highest academic achievements for U.S. college students, according to the Rhodes Trust, which administers the program, and the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.



The 2015 class of Rhodes scholars was chosen from a pool of 877 students who were endorsed by 305 colleges and universities. There were 207 finalists from 86 colleges and universities who were selected in 16 different geographic districts, the Journal says.


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. The 32 outstanding students will begin their studies at Oxford University in October 2015, according to the Rhodes Trust.


Alain LeRoy Locke, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1907, was the first Black Rhodes scholar, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root’s editor-in-chief and the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.


Locke was born in Philadelphia in 1885, the only son of a lawyer and teacher, both of whom had been born free, Gates writes. Since then, others have joined the exclusive ranks.


Here is a list of the five most recent winners:


Robert A. Fisher is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is majoring in political science with minors in history and Africana studies. He previously won a Truman Scholarship. Fisher is the student body president at the university and has a perfect academic record. Fisher will study for a master’s degree in comparative social policy at Oxford.


Rachel V. Harmon is from Champaign, Ill. She is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y, where she is majoring in industrial and labor relations. Before starting her college career, Harmon was an AmeriCorps volunteer at a rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta. She plans to study for a master’s degree in evidence-based social policy at Oxford.


Ridwan Y. Hassen is a senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He is majoring in computer science with an emphasis on neuroscience. He began his college career at Emory University and transferred to Dartmouth after two years. He is the son of refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. At Dartmouth he is a member of the Endurance Racing Team. Hassen is planning to pursue a master’s degree in public policy at Oxford.


Tayo A. Sanders II is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he is majoring in materials science. Sanders previously won a Goldwater Scholarship. He has conducted research in the nanomaterials laboratory at the University of Strasbourg in France. Sanders is a triathlete. At Oxford, Sanders plans to earn a Ph.D. in materials science.


Sarah E. Yerima is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. She is majoring in sociology. During the summer of 2013, Yerima completed an intensive program in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. She will enroll in a two-year master’s degree program in politics at Oxford. After studying at Oxford, Yerima plans to enter a joint J.D./Ph.D. program and hopes to become a professor of law.


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