Yesha Callahan

Black Excellence: Four Black Women Win Rhodes Scholarships

The Rhodes Trust has announced the latest class of 32 outstanding American students who will study at England’s University of Oxford as Rhodes Scholars. Being named a Rhodes Scholar is one of the highest honors that can be won by a U.S. college student.

The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, an industrialist who made a vast fortune in colonial Africa. According to the will, applicants must have “high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor.”

This year’s class of Rhodes Scholars was chosen from a pool of over 869 students who were endorsed by 316 different colleges and universities. There were 208 finalists from 93 colleges and universities that were selected in 16 different geographic districts. 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.

(L to R) Ilhan A. Dahir, Jennifer C. Hebert, Logan C. Jackson, and Ericka M. Wheeler/JBHE

(L to R) Ilhan A. Dahir, Jennifer C. Hebert, Logan C. Jackson, and Ericka M. Wheeler/JBHE

Of this year’s 32 Scholars, four of them are African-American women.

Ilhan A. Dahir, the daughter of Somali immigrants, is a graduate of Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and political science. She is now teaching English in Turkey as a Fulbright Fellow and plans to earn two master’s degrees at Oxford, one on refugee and forced migration studies and one in global governance and diplomacy.

Jennifer C. Hebert is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in the biological basis of behavior. She is a member of the university’s rowing team and the U.S. national rowing team. Her senior thesis involves research on the effects of nicotine exposure or stress on neural circuitry and she’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in psychiatry at Oxford.

Logan C. Jackson from Lexington, Kentucky, is a senior at Northeastern University in Boston, majoring in structural engineering. She has a perfect grade point average so far in her undergraduate career. Jackson is president of the Northeastern University chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She plays the viola in the university’s symphony orchestra and plans to study education along with evidence-based social intervention and policy.

Ericka M. Wheeler is the first African American woman from the state of Mississippi to win a Rhodes Scholarship. She’s a senior at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and is currently majoring in history and English while also taking a pre-med curriculum. Wheeler is co-president of the Millsaps College Gospel Choir and president of the Intercultural Student Organization. She plans to study for a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford.

  1. December 8, 2015 - Reply

    “an industrialist who made a vast fortune in colonial Africa”

    Yet only 4 black women are being honored with this scholarship. Ironically proud of these women, but not because of the Rhodes scholarship.

    • December 9, 2015 - Reply


      Poetic justice?

    • December 9, 2015 - Reply


      remember not just any colonial industrialist but a colonial industrialist responsible for the genocide of upward to “22 million black people”.

  2. December 8, 2015 - Reply

    The history of Cecil Rhodes should be shown. The real history of Cecil Rhodes is that he worked with European imperialists to try to conquer Africa. Cecil Rhodes was a British imperialist. He supported the Glen Grey Act to violate the human rights of black people in Africa. Yet, I do congratulate the great black women who made accomplishment. Their stories are inspiring and they should given more blessings and total respect. All four black women have shown almsgiving, integrity, love for their community, and commitment to improving the lives of others. They should be congratulated on their accomplishments (not because of the Rhodes scholarship as Sister Me has mentioned).

  3. December 9, 2015 - Reply

    Cecil Rhodes a white supremacist responsible for the death of upwards to 22 million Black Africans [fact]. And we gory in assassinating the character of Bill Cosby base on allegations alone yet we gory in taking scholarship in the name of a genocidal beast and say we are educated.

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