Robert A. Fisher, a senior and Brock Scholar at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is among the thirty-two American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. The announcement was made by Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust.
Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships, “the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.”
They were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer, and are provided in partnership with the Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain and other generous benefactors. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; Fisher, who was among those elected on November 22, 2014, will enter Oxford in October 2015.
Fisher, who majors in Political Science and minors in History and Africana Studies, graduated from Rossview High School in Clarksville, Tennessee, in 2011. He has been named a Truman Scholar. He is serving his second term as president of the Student Government Association. He becomes the third student from the Chattanooga campus to be named a Rhodes Scholar.
“I can’t quite put into words how I feel; I am still processing what all of this means,” Fisher said. “To be among 32 of the most talented students in the country is an honor that I never would have imagined for myself. This is the type of opportunity I merely dreamed of as a child. To be the grandson of a set of grandparents who graduated from segregated high schools, to have lived a life contextualized in large part by racial inequality, I recognize that I now have a unique responsibility to leverage this honor to affect positive change in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and beyond.”
He was appointed as student representative to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and is a Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
He has also served as a member of the UT Advocacy Council (UTAC) Oversight Committee, and as co-chair of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s Chattanooga Forward Initiative for the Downtown Revitalization Taskforce. He was named Student Representative of Academic Affairs and Student Success for the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.
Fisher plans to pursue the Master of Philosophy in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford.
“To say that Robert winning the Rhodes Scholarship is a historic event for The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is no exaggeration; before the announcement on Sunday, November 22nd, both the University of Chattanooga and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga together have only had two students be named Rhodes Scholars. So it’s an amazing thing for our institution,” said Dr. Linda Frost, Dean of the Honors College at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “But as Robert himself told me, it’s a win for his family—for all the people who have supported him so powerfully over the years. Part of what is so satisfying about this is not just that Robert deserves it so heartily because of all the things he’s already achieved, but because we know that Robert will take whatever he learns at Oxford and give it back to his community, tenfold. In the end, it’s just a great thing for anyone who is part of Robert’s community—and that community just gets bigger and better by the day.”
Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year approximately 1600 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 877 were endorsed by 305 different colleges and universities. Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview.
“I could not have reached this incredible feat without the support of my amazing family, my dear friends, the UTC and Chattanooga communities, and many, many more people and entities that I regret I cannot list here,” Fisher continued. “For now, all I can say is thank you to everyone who has played a role in my journey, and that I will continue to live my life in service to others–this opportunity merely impacts the scalability of that service.”
Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes.
These criteria are first, academic excellence. This is a critical but only threshold condition. A Rhodes Scholar should also have great personal energy, ambition for impact, and an ability to work with others and to achieve one’s goals. In addition, a Rhodes Scholar should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be conscious of inequities. And finally, a Rhodes Scholar should show great promise of leadership. Outstanding young men and women of intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service are sought. Gerson said “these basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an important and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.'”
Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are a legal resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22 in cities across the country. Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred seven applicants from 86 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 10 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship.
The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, usually including several who have attended American colleges and universities but who are not U.S. citizens and who have applied through their home country.
With the elections announcement on Sunday, November 23rd, 3,356 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 316 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply and 498 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. This year, men constituted 53 percent of the applicant pool and also 53 percent of those who reached the final stage of the competition. Over 1900 American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U.S. and abroad.
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Gerson estimates that the total value of the Scholarship averages approximately $50,000 per year, and up to as much as $200,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.
The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which they were chosen, their American colleges or universities, and their brief profiles can be found at http://www.rhodesscholar.org/winners/