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Aryn Frazier, Lauren Jackson named Rhodes Scholars

Students express surprise, gratitude after winning award

<p>Frazier (left) and Jackson (right) are the 52nd and 53rd Rhodes Scholars in the history of the University.&nbsp;</p>

Frazier (left) and Jackson (right) are the 52nd and 53rd Rhodes Scholars in the history of the University. 

Fourth-year College students Aryn Frazier and Lauren Jackson were named Rhodes Scholars — a prestigious award which covers expenses for 32 American students to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Oxford — Saturday evening.

“I was shocked,” Frazier said. “Obviously because the odds are low, but also because I spent the last 24 hours getting to know these really great candidates from all over our region. I felt very blessed.”

Jackson also expressed her gratitude, saying that she never expected to even get an interview.

“It is something I never expected, never even really aspired to,” Jackson said. “I just did the things I cared about.”

Jackson, who is studying Political and Social Thought, said she is interested in the intersection of the media and humanitarian policy. She intends to pursue journalism during and after her time at Oxford, before eventually transitioning to a career in humanitarian policy.

“There’s a problem in the lack of accurate representation of people affected by humanitarian crisis in the media,” Jackson said. “I think we need to change the way humanitarians and journalists interact to get the right people covering the right stories to shape public opinion to be more empathetic.”

Kirsten Gelsdorf, director of Global Humanitarian Policy and Jackson’s thesis advisor, said she is happy Jackson is a part of the humanitarian aid field.

“When I come across someone like Lauren and know that they’re interested in the subject area … it makes everything so worth it because I’m so excited about this next generation coming in and being able to solve these really hard humanitarian challenges,” Gelsdorf said.

Assoc. Religious Studies Prof. John Portmann said he believes Jackson’s modesty and humility separated her from the competition.

“It’s really, really nice to know that sometimes in America, good guys can still win,” Portmann said. “She was always a good guy.”

Frazier, who is majoring in African-American and African Studies and the Politics Honors program, said she is interested in studying how people form their political ideologies and how those in public office can work for those they serve.

“I think a lot of what we see now is … the perception that people that are in public office tell those that they are supposed to be helping what they are going to do — as opposed to asking, ‘What is it that we can do?’” Frazier said. “Broadly, I would like to start asking, ‘What is it that we can do?’”

Andrew Kahrl, assistant professor of history and African-American and African studies, said Frazier has shaped several organizations on Grounds, including the Black Student Alliance and Sustained Dialogue. Frazier has served as a resident advisor and a senior resident.

“What she contributed to classroom discussions was just stellar and I think [that’s] something that probably doesn’t get recognized so much in a resume,” Kahrl said. “But for me and from my perspective in the classroom, she would constantly elevate the discussions and really help to enhance the learning experience for everyone in the classroom.”

Josh Jaspers, a third-year College student and friend of Frazier, said Frazier has been a role model to him and many others.

“Her intellectual curiosity [has] a profound impact on the people around her,” Jaspers said. “One thing that she’s really good at is thinking about people who are unrepresented or need a voice — and she works to give her voice to those people.”

Andrus Ashoo, associate director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, assisted Jackson and Frazier in applying for the Rhodes Scholarship and said he was able to watch the students grow during the process.

“It’s been challenging. There have been moments where they’ve each come in with great confidence,” Ashoo said, “and there’s also been moments where they’ve been humbled.”

Ashoo said he has helped the students by asking hard questions and explaining what the students can and cannot prepare for in an interview.

“I organize mock interviews with faculty and community members, not so that they can have some formulated answer for any possible question, but so they can know what it’s going to be like to be sitting there in that hot seat and have your heart racing and your mouth a little dry and be asked to defend why you deserve to be a Rhodes Scholar,” Ashoo said.

Upon graduating from the University, Frazier and Jackson will enter the University of Oxford in the 2017-18 academic year.