Three current UO students have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, the oldest international fellowship award in the world.
Nayantara Arora, a senior majoring in neuroscience at the Clark Honors College; Colleen Uzoekwe, a senior majoring in human physiology and UO Track and Field athlete; and Lucy Roberts, a 2023 Clark Honors College graduate currently pursuing a masters in geography, are among the finalists for the 2024 awards. All three are native Oregonians.
“This is a wonderful achievement for these students and the UO,” said Kimberly Johnson, vice provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success. “It's incredibly fulfilling to support our students as they pursue these opportunities that have the potential to change their lives.”
The Rhodes Trust awarded its first scholarships in 1902. Based at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the organization sends 32 students from the U.S., and dozens more from around the world, to the fabled university with full tuition paid. Rhodes scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership.
The UO has had 19 Rhodes scholars in the institution’s history, the last one in 2007. One UO student was named a Rhodes finalist last year and two students were selected as finalists in 2020.
"We are deeply honored to have Nayantara, Colleen, and Lucy represent the University of Oregon,” said Kevin Hatfield, assistant vice provost for undergraduate research and distinguished scholarships. “As a testament to their academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, community advocacy and ‘energy to use one's talents to the full’ — the Rhodes selection criteria — we believe it is unprecedented for the UO to have its full slate of annual Rhodes endorsees be named national finalists.”
Arora, Uzoekwe and Roberts will travel north to Seattle on Nov. 10 and 11 for personal interviews with a Rhodes Scholarship committee. Their travel costs will be covered by the UO’s Undergraduate Research and Distinguished Scholarships Impact Fund. The Office of Distinguished Scholarships also is arranging mock interview panels this week for the three finalists with former UO Rhodes finalists and recipients.
Hometown Portland, Oregon
Major Neuroscience, minors in chemistry and global health, Class of 2024
Who’s the first person you told? “My mom. I called her twice, but she didn’t pick up. Then I FaceTimed her and she did. At first, she thought something negative happened, because of all my calls. Then she just started clapping for me.”
What makes you proudest about being named a Rhodes finalist? “I’ve been crippled by impostor syndrome and feeling like what I’d done wasn’t enough. Making it to the finalist round is a huge validation. It’s an honor that other people view my work and achievements as meaningful.”
What has been your most rewarding academic experience at UO? “Researching the connection between Chai tea and colonialism. It opened my eyes that Chai, which is something that a lot of South Asians drink and consider part of their identity, including my own family, was actually a colonial imposition and marketing strategy by the British Empire.”
Hometown Grants Pass, Oregon
Major Spatial data science and technology, minor in global health, Class of 2023. Now pursuing master’s at the UO.
Who’s the first person you told? “I emailed my partner and my parents, because I was sitting in on a lecture when I first received the email. They were over the moon for me. But my cat was the first one I told in person.”
What makes you proudest about being named a Rhodes finalist? “There are a couple people in my life that I met at UO and really admire who have been Rhodes finalists: (former UO student) Raimy Khalife-Hamdan and professor Michael Moffitt, who has been an incredible mentor to me. I can’t even believe that I would be considered on the same level.”
What has been your most rewarding academic experience at UO? “I took the ‘Searching for the Cayuse Five’ class twice. I coalesced historic maps and imagery and leveraged geospatial data science for the search in a way it hadn’t really been done before. I’m proud of what I contributed and the interactions I had afterwards with the direct descendants of the five executed men.”
Hometown Beaverton, Oregon
Major Human physiology, minors in chemistry and business administration, Class of 2024
Who was the first person you told? “I was coming out of practice early in the morning when I saw the email, so it was my friends on the team. They were a little confused at first because they weren’t sure what it was. But once I explained, they were very excited for me.”
What makes you proudest about being named a Rhodes finalist? “Usually, people plan their applications for years, but I first heard about the Rhodes opportunity this summer. I started and finished my application in three weeks, while working with my research mentor.”
What has been your most rewarding academic experience at UO? “Working in the cadaver lab during the human anatomy and physiology core sequence. The work is so valuable and sacred, something that should always be treated with care.”
—By Saul Hubbard, University Communications
—Photos by University Communications
The Office of Distinguished Scholarships provides comprehensive advising and guidance to students and recent alumni who are interested in exploring and applying to highly competitive national and international scholarships and fellowships to support graduate study and career pathways.
A directory of distinguished scholarships and a list of UO distinguished scholarship recipients and finalists are available on the office’s website. Students and their mentors are encouraged to contact the office at email@example.com.