By Revathi Siva Kumar
What makes winners of the “oldest and best-known award” for international study tick?
(Editor’s note: This post has been updated.)
Indian students have always been top academic stars, and this year’s list of Rhodes scholars features four of them: Serena Alagappan and Ananya A. Malhotra from Princeton University, Kritika Singh from Northeastern University and Prathm Juneja from the University of Notre Dame.
From September 2020, they are expected to study broadly across the social, biological and physical sciences, and in the humanities.
What made these students tick?
Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust summed it best saying that Rhodes scholars represent the “extraordinary diversity that characterizes and strengthens the United States… They are leaders already, and we expect their impact to expand exponentially…”
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Called “the oldest and best-known award for international study,” and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates,” Rhodes scholarships were created in 1902 by a will written by Cecil Rhodes.
While Indian Rhodes scholars from the past include Sagarika Ghosh, Neil Mukherjee and Girish Karnad, the latest list featuring the three Indians show impressive biographies.
Serena Alagappan, from Manhattan, is a senior at Princeton, majoring in Comparative Literature. She has plumbed the depths of the manner in which identities and modes of expression can offer shape and direction to art.
President of the Princeton University American Sign Language Club, Editor-in-Chief at the Nassau Weekly and a list of published fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Serena also listened to voices of Holocaust survivors. Currently, she is planning to pursue an M.Sc. in Social Anthropology and an M.St. in World Literatures.
ALSO READ: Four exceptional Indian American students selected as Rhodes Scholars (November 24, 2014)
Ananya A. Malhotra, from Atlanta, Georgia, is also a senior at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She is examining transnational legacies of intergenerational trauma and is determinedly writing a senior thesis using oral histories to check out on nuclear weapons.
Her big plans encompass a career as a human rights lawyer and an academic. Oxford awaits to welcome her for an M.Phil. in International Relations.
Kritika Singh, who is from McLean, VA, is a senior at Northeastern University where she majors in bioengineering. A Truman Scholar and a Goldwater Scholar, she is also the founder and CEO of Malaria Free World, researching at Massachusetts General Hospital in epigenetics and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
She founded the Northeastern University Global Health Initiative. With an aspiration to become a physician scientist-advocate concentrating on emerging diseases, Kritika at Oxford plans to pursue a D.Phil. in biomedical sciences.
Prathm Juneja, a senior at the University of Notre Dame, will complete his graduation at the end of this year, majoring in political science as well as computer science. His work as an undergrad has been quite winsome, even as he got a handle on how technology and policy could come together and pave the way for a greater and more equitable government.
Even his undergraduate thesis is impressive, as he takes up a data-driven analysis of Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, as well as how it affected the voter turnout rates. Having been a legislative and creative intern for the South Bend Mayor’s Office, Juneja is well-reputed as a Truman Scholar. The next step will be the pursuit of M.Sc. in Social Data Science, as well as a Master of Public Policy in the hallowed classes of Oxford.
Apart from academic excellence, the Rhodes Scholar is marked out for personal energy, ambition for impact, an ability to work with others, achieve their goals, work for the good and welfare of others and be aware of inequities.
The four bright names in the Rhodes Scholars’ list is, therefore, truly a proud moment for Indian Americans.