The Rhodes Scholarship, founded in 1902, is an international award to bring postgraduate students to study at the University of Oxford, and it is one of the most prestigious academic awards in the world. Each year, it’s awarded to around 100 students, to cover their tuition, fees, accommodation, and living expenses for two years. This year, the Rhodes Scholarship was awarded to 32 Americans, including two from Georgia.

Phaidra Buchanan, who hails from Tyrone, Georgia, and has been a student at the University of Georgia, is a social studies education major with a specialty in the intersection of racial inequalities, slavery, and education.

Sam Patterson, from Marietta, Georgia, is currently attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore. At Oxford, he is going to follow his plan of a Master’s of Science in the Nature, Society, and Environmental Governance program, focusing on the economics of transportation.

Rhodes scholars are still selected more or less according to the criteria of the scholarship’s founder, diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes. The panel of judges looks at scholastic achievements, publications, civil service, leadership attributes, and “moral force of character.” The selection process has evolved with the times; candidates no longer have to be men from the British Commonwealth and former colonies, nor are “manly” outdoor sports a requirement these days. But the process remains highly selective and respected all over the world. President Bill Clinton is the only U.S. president to have ever been a Rhodes Scholar (1968), although 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg (2005) could have been another.

Both Buchanan and Patterson were praised highly by the staff at their current universities, particularly for their academic diligence and their commitment to empathy, justice, and equity. The Rhodes Scholarship, and the opportunities it opens for them both, will give them the support to truly hone those qualities and craft them into forces of change.

Photo: Rhodes House from South Parks Road, University of Oxford, England. The will of Cecil Rhodes created scholarships known as Rhodes Scholarships, administered by the by the Rhode Trust. Credit: ReoromART /

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