32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars, Includes 3 Indian Americans and One From Nepal

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Shreeya Singh (Photo: Twitter)

WASHINGTON, DC – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, announced the names of the 32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars.

The list includes four Indian Americans: Devashish Basant of New York and a student at Hunter College; Shreeya Singh of Florida and a student at Yale University; Trisha N. Prabhu of Illinois and a student at Harvard University; and Varsha Sarveshwar of California and a student at University of California at Berkeley.

Devashish Basnet, Hicksville, NY is a senior at City University of New York, Hunter College, majoring in Political Science. Devashish and his parents came to the U.S. as political asylees from Nepal, and he has worked extensively on international migration issues, including writing a senior honors thesis on unaccompanied minors and the criminalization of immigration in the United States. He currently serves as President of Hunter College’s student government. An accomplished baritone, Devashish will perform the role of the Count in this fall’s Hunter College Opera Theatre Project’s production of the Marriage of Figaro. At Oxford, he will pursue an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a Master’s in Public Policy.

Shreeya Singh, Pembroke Pines, Florida is a senior at Yale College, majoring in History. At Yale, she is founder and president of Students Against Hindutva, from which she organized nationwide protests against India’s anti-Muslim policies, political chair of the South Asian Society and Managing Editor of its International Relations magazine. Shreeya, who was born in India, is also an extraordinarily accomplished debator, nationally and globally. She has worked in Congressional offices and on a U.S. Presidential campaign and has been active across the world in causes of political justice and human rights. At Oxford, Shreeya plans to do the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies.

Trisha N. Prabhu, Naperville, IL is a senior at Harvard College, where she majors in
Government. Trisha is the founder and CEO of ReThink, Inc., an app that proactively detects offensive digital content and gives users a chance to reconsider posting it. She is the holder of several United States patents. As a Civic Digital Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Trisha helped lead the KidneyX Accelerator, which incentivized innovators and businesses to create kidney care technology solutions. At Oxford, she plans to pursue an MSc in Social Science of the Internet and a Masters of Public Policy.

Varsha Sarveshwar, Sacramento, Calif. graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2020 in Political Science, with minors in Public Policy and History. She won highest honors in each discipline with a perfect academic record, along with numerous university and national honors and awards. Since graduation, she has worked as a Public Service Fellow and then as Executive Assistant for Cabinet Affairs in the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom. While at Berkeley she was the president of the University’s Student Association and president of the Cal Berkeley Democrats. She is deeply interested in educational policy as it relates to equity and access. At Oxford, Varsha plans to do the MSc in Comparative Social Policy and the Master’s in Public Policy.

“For the second year, a class of Rhodes Scholars has been elected entirely virtually, with both candidates and selectors participating remotely, safely, and independently. As successful as the process was, we of course hope to return to in-person interviews and selection next year in cities across the country, as had been done for over a century.”

Gerson described this year’s class: “This year’s Rhodes Scholars representing the United
States–elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously–will go to
England next October to study in fields across the full breadth of the University of Oxford.
They are inspiring young leaders already, and we are confident that their contributions to
public welfare nationally and globally will expand exponentially over the course of their
careers in varied sectors and disciplines.”

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford—ranked the #1 university in the world in some global rankings—and may allow
funding in some instances for four years. Mr. 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.”

The Scholarships were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes and are provided in partnership with the Second Century Founders, John McCall MacBain O.C. and The Atlantic Philanthropies, and many other generous benefactors. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford in October 2022.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. This year more than 2,300 students began the application process; 826 were endorsed by 247 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. Each district interviewed at least 14 finalists.

The class includes 22 women, the most ever elected in a year, and has winners from 24
different colleges and universities. It includes the first Rhodes Scholar ever elected from
Clemson University. Also elected were three Rhodes Scholars from colleges that had not had winners for more than 25 years, the second ever from Mount Holyoke College and Union College, and the third from Claremont McKenna College.

The American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust explained that applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes.

“These criteria include first and fundamentally, academic excellence. This is a critical but only threshold condition. A Rhodes Scholar should also have great ambition for social impact, and an uncommon ability to work with others to achieve one’s goals. They should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be acutely conscious of inequities.”

Mr. Gerson added that “although the Trust strives for the most inclusive
application pool possible through outreach efforts, consideration of balance or diversity are not factors in selection.” And finally, he said, “a Rhodes Scholar should show
great promise of leadership. In short, we seek outstanding young people of intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service. 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’s 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 legally
resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, November 18, 19 and 20, through a virtual platform 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 thirty-five applicants from 76 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 12 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship.

The 32 Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of
Scholars chosen from 23 other jurisdictions (more than 60 countries) around the world, and for the third year, two Scholars from any country in the world without its own Scholarship.

Over one hundred Rhodes Scholars will be selected worldwide this year, 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 announced today, 3,578 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships,
representing 327 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply,
and 627 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. Approximately 2,000
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. The total value of the Scholarship averages approximately $75,000 per year, and up to as much as approximately US$250,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

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