Campus & Community

Three from Harvard receive American Rhodes Scholarships

6 min read

Two Harvard College students and a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) doctoral student have received Rhodes Scholarships. Thirty-two Americans were chosen from among 800 applicants for the scholarships to the University of Oxford in England.

Kyle Q. Haddad-Fonda, Issaquah, Wash., is a senior at Harvard College where he majors in history and near-Eastern languages and civilizations. Well-versed in Mandarin and Arabic, the Pforzheimer House resident conducted research in China and Egypt for his senior thesis on Sino-Arab relations. Haddad-Fonda was captain of the Harvard 2008 National College Bowl Championship team and plays the harp in the Mozart Society Orchestra. He plans to do a doctorate in Oriental studies at Oxford.

“I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect of studying at Oxford next year,” he said, “and humbled by the caliber of the other students who went through the process as well.”

Haddad-Fonda said an early interest in geography and “the world and understanding other places” led him to his concentration. Current events, like the recent deal between Iraq and China in excess of $3 billion that will allow China to develop an oil field southeast of Baghdad, he noted, point to the increasing importance of Sino-Arab connections.

While at Oxford, he plans to continue his research and explore how this and other connections have developed in recent times.

“It’s a topic that is very current and very important. And it’s something that I want to understand and to understand in a historic perspective as well.”

Malorie Snider, Friendswood, Texas, is a senior at Harvard College where she majors in biological anthropology. A junior member of Phi Beta Kappa and winner of many academic prizes, the Mather House resident is interested in medicine and psychiatry, and especially in questions relating to how cultural beliefs shape people’s understanding of truth in science. She intends to do the M.Sc. in medical anthropology at Oxford.

Snider said she has a particular interest in studying how broad societal perceptions of mental health affect things like a specific patient’s own perspective on mental illness and, in turn, if and how the individual chooses to seek treatment.

“I’m interested in the social practices and cultural beliefs that impact the ways that society construes the social meaning of mental illness. … I think it would be really interesting to delve into that more deeply [at Oxford].”

For her senior thesis, Snider is working in the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is studying genetic temperament traits in children.

Snider, who traveled to Texas for the Rhodes interview, was busy the day after the announcements were made celebrating an early Thanksgiving with her family. The rush of social events, the interviews, and the wait in a room with fellow candidates all conspired to take her on something of an emotional ride, she admitted.

“I was surprised, thrilled, dazed, overwhelmed, all at once,” said the senior of hearing her name read as one of the two Rhodes recipients from her district.

“Realizing all the possibilities that it suddenly opened up … there was a lot of emotion.”

Julia Parker Goyer, Birmingham, Ala., graduated from Duke University in 2007 with a major in psychology and a concentration in neuroscience. She is now pursuing a doctorate in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, exploring ways to use neuroscience to enhance educational practices. She has many awards and publications in neuroscience, and was a member of the Duke varsity tennis team, which reached the Final Four indoors and the NCAA quarterfinals twice. She plans to do the M.Sc. in education at Oxford.

As a competitive college athlete, Goyer said, it was difficult to study abroad or take part in substantive community service because of the year-round commitment to athletic training and academics. She realized others were likely facing the same challenge.

In an effort to help other student athletes as well as youth in developing countries, Goyer created the program Coach for College, which brought a handful of university students to rural Vietnam last summer to teach local high school students.

Using sports, she said, “The idea was to focus on experiential learning … [and] developing critical thinking skills and promoting excitement about academics.”

Goyer said she hopes to develop the program into a truly global initiative, expanding it to other countries and also incorporating other American universities.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Oxford was to study comparative international education to learn more about the different education systems, academic curricula, personnel of the different countries so I could see which ones would be a good fit for the Coach for College program.”

She added that the Oxford experience would serve as a catalyst for completing her dissertation at HGSE.

Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, in a press release called the Rhodes Scholarships “the oldest and best-known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those chosen this weekend will enter Oxford in October 2009.

Gerson said 3,164 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 309 colleges and universities. The number of Harvard College students who have won American Rhodes Scholarships is now 323, more than from any other college. That number does not include Rhodes Scholars who were Harvard students who were citizens of other countries, and also does not include scholars who were selected while attending Harvard’s graduate schools.

In addition to the 32 Americans, Rhodes Scholars will also be selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. About 80 Rhodes Scholars are selected worldwide each year. Some countries have not yet announced their Rhodes Scholars.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarships varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Gerson estimates that the total value of the scholarship averages approximately $50,000 per year.