Ten members of Harvard’s Class of 2024 have been selected as Rhodes Scholars to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.
Nine Harvard students are among the 32 American Rhodes recipients announced by the American secretary of the Rhodes Trust on Saturday. Harvard College produced the most American Rhodes Scholars for the fifth year in a row, and no other school produced more than two winners.
The U.S. winners are Aishani V. Aatresh ’24, Suhaas M. Bhat ’23-’24, Benjamin Chang ’23-’24, Isabella B. Cho ’24, Mira-Rose J. Kingsbury Lee ’24, Xavier R. Morales ’23-’24, Lyndsey R. Mugford ’23-’24, Lucy Tu ’24, and Eleanor V. Wikstrom ’24. Asmer A. Safi ’23-’24 was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship last month for the Pakistan constituency.
Within the U.S., 862 students were endorsed by roughly 250 colleges and universities for the scholarship, according to the press release.
Over the weekend, 240 finalists representing 90 institutions interviewed for the scholarship in-person in their respective regions. Students from the New England region, including Mugford and Kingsbury Lee, were interviewed just across the Charles. Others had longer trips — like Safi, who flew 7,000 miles to Pakistan.
Aatresh, who hails from the North California district, was playing board games with her fellow finalists when the committee sent word that the results would be announced in five minutes. All of the finalists were told to stand as the two district winners — Aatresh and Wikstrom, a Crimson Editorial Chair — were announced.
Mugford had a similar experience as she waited for results on campus.
“It was obviously very tense because we were all very nervous, but it was very warm and fun, like we were all in it together,” Mugford said.
This year’s scholarship recipients have a wide-range of academic focuses, including political theory, microbiology, physics, and public health.
Aatresh is currently pursuing a special concentration she crafted called “complex biosocial systems.” At Oxford, she plans to pursue an master of philosophy in nature, society and environmental governance.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” Aatresh said. “For me, it’s a recognition of the importance of community and camaraderie and trying to figure out how to do things differently and more thoughtfully at Harvard and in the world.”
Some students expressed feeling a heightened sense of responsibility that comes with the scholarship.
“I feel like the work begins now,” Bhat said. “It’s, of course, validating. It feels good to win prizes, as I think anyone would tell you, but mostly I’m excited because I can now focus on doing the actual work I want to do in the world.”
“I don’t have to worry about winning prizes anymore. Now I can focus on actually doing things that I really care about in the world,” he added.
For Bhat, the co-founder of Harvard Undergraduate Group Peer Therapy, this means working to improve access to mental health resources on campus and around the world.
Cho, an English concentrator and a Crimson News editor, said she seeks to combat the idea of the humanities in crisis in higher education.
“There’s a real public mandate to energize the humanities so that they’re seen by all as a true peer to the sciences and social sciences,” Cho wrote in an emailed statement. “It’s my hope that my time at Oxford can help me understand how we can infuse more experimentation into the way we bring humanities to students, and how those innovations might help address the ideological divides we see not just in pedagogy but in politics and jurisprudence as well.”
Tu, who hails from Omaha, Nebraska, described herself as “a very proud first-generation American” and said she sees this as a driving force behind her work in journalism.
“I’m the daughter of two Chinese immigrants,” she said. “English is not my or my family’s native language.”
“They really instilled that tenacity in me and that ambition,” Tu said of her parents. “They also instilled the importance of always seeking out the stories of people who might be overlooked the same way I think my family was overlooked because we didn't speak the native language.”
Safi, the only international Harvard Rhodes scholar elected so far this year, plans to study the intellectual history of Marxist and religious thought in South Asia.
“I’m one of two Pakistanis that gets elected from a country of 230 million,” Safi said. “It comes with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and a need to continue speaking the truth and being able to advocate for the things one cares about.”
The Rhodes Trust will continue to announce winners from the remaining international constituencies over the coming weeks.
Correction: November 17, 2023
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that students from the New England region interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship on Harvard’s campus. In fact, interviews were held in Boston.
—Staff writer Sage S. Lattman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X @SageLattman.
—Staff writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on X at @ScottSophia_.