The 2020 class of Rhodes Scholars has been announced—and it’s the most diverse class in the program’s 117-year history.
Almost half of the students in the 2020 class are first-generation Americans. Twenty-three-year-old Hera Jane Brown has made history as the first transgender woman to accept the award. Kristine E. Guillaume made history as the first black woman president of the Harvard Crimson to be selected. Brown and Guillaume are two of 32 scholars selected out of the 900-plus applications received this year, 21 of whom are women.
“This year’s American Rhodes Scholars—independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously—once again reflect the extraordinary diversity that characterizes and strengthens the United States,” Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in a statement.
Brown’s research, as well as that of 2020 scholars Laura Plata and Stephen Damianos, has primarily focused on forced migration and asylum. Her research has taken her to a dozen countries as she studied Syrian refugees. After Plata heard stories from her family members in El Salvador of escalating gang violence and instability, she devoted her studies to aiding migrant families and researching the challenges faced by deported families in Mexico.
“They will go to Oxford in September 2020 to study in fields broadly across the social, biological and physical sciences, and in the humanities. They are leaders already, and we expect their impact to expand exponentially over the course of their public-spirited careers,” Gerson said.
The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded annually to postgraduate students to study at the University of Oxford. The program celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2003. Notable past scholars include Rachel Maddow, Ronan Farrow and former Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen.