Prestigious Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to two Yalies

Two Yalies have been awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University.
Daniel Judt and JaVaughn Flowers

Daniel Judt and JaVaughn Flowers

A current Yale undergraduate and a recent graduate of the university are among the 32 American citizens chosen as 2018 Rhodes Scholars.

The Yale winners of Rhodes Scholarships representing the United States are Daniel H. Judt of Manhattan, New York, a Yale senior who will graduate next month with a major in history, and JaVaughn (“J.T.”) Flowers of Portland, Oregon, who graduated in May 2017 with a B.A. in political science.

The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of students chosen from more than 64 different countries from around the world. Approximately 100 Rhodes Scholars will be selected worldwide this year.

The prestigious 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. The Rhodes Scholarships are “the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates,” says Elliot F. Gerson, secretary of the Rhodes Trust, who announced the winners on Nov. 18.

Gerson described this year’s class of Rhodes Scholars, saying, “This year’s selections — independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflects the rich diversity of America. It includes, among others, 10 African Americans, the most ever elected to a U.S. Rhodes class; African and Asian immigrants; other Asian, Muslim, and Latino Americans; an Alaskan Native (Aleut); a transgender man, the second self-acknowledged transgender Rhodes Scholar after Pema McLaughlin was elected last year; and four from colleges that have never before elected Rhodes Scholars in the 15 years of the United States Rhodes Scholarships . … They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities.”

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a competitive two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year, more than 2,500 students sought their institution’s endorsement, and 866 were endorsed by 299 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.

Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the will of Cecil Rhodes, which includes academic excellence, “great personal energy,” ambition for impact, and an ability to achieve one’s goals. In addition, Rhodes Scholars are committed to making a strong difference for good in the world, are concerned with the welfare of others, and are conscious of inequalities, according to Gerson. “In short, we seek outstanding young men and women of intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”

To date, 3,452 Americans representing 322 colleges and universities have won Rhodes Scholarships since the Rhodes Trust was established the will of Cecil John Rhodes in 1902.

Daniel Judt

Judt’s senior thesis is about how the Socialist movement influenced conservative policies in the American South. He has won major Yale prizes and honors in journalism, nonfiction writing, English, and the humanities. He co-founded and is editor-in-chief of Brink, a book review journal inspired by the New York Review of Books, where he interned with the late Robert Silvers. He has written for The Nation, the Yale Politic, The New York Times, and many other publications. Judt has taught literature, French, and English to high school students in New Haven, prison inmates, and French adult refugees in Paris. He aspires to be an intellectual historian “who not just interprets the world, but changes,” according to the Rhodes Trust. He will study for an M.Phil. in history at Oxford.

JaVaughn Flowers

Flowers is a Truman Scholar, whose thesis examined policy gaps in Portland, Oregon’s sanctuary city policy for undocumented immigrants. He played varsity basketball for Yale before devoting his time to A Leg Even, an organization that facilitates the academic and professional success of low-income students. A first-generation college graduate, Flowers helped to design and implement many changes in Yale’s financial aid system. At graduation, he was awarded the James Andrew Haas Prize, which is given annually to the member of the senior class “whose breath of intellectual achievement, strength of character, and fundamental humanity shall be adjudged by the faculty to have provided leadership for his or her fellow students, inspiring in them a love of learning and concern for others.” After graduation, he returned to his hometown of Portland to work in Representative Earl Blumenauer’s field office. At Oxford, he will study comparative social policy. He was recently awarded the Yale Jefferson Medal for Public Service.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Meet some of Yale’s outstanding graduates of 2018