Jordan Jefferson, a senior political science major at Jackson State University, has been named as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship and is moving on to the interview stage of the process in Birmingham, Alabama, Nov. 22-23.“It’s really a dream come true. My mom planted the idea for this opportunity in my mind several years ago. So for me to make it to the next step is humbling, exciting and nerve-racking,” said Jefferson, who is also president of the SGA and a wide receiver for the JSU Tigers football team.
One of the oldest and best-known awards for international study, the Rhodes Scholarship provides an all-expense paid education to the University of Oxford in England.
“It is arguably one of the greatest honors available to an American college graduate and covers the costs of two to four years of graduate study at the University of Oxford, often ranked first in the world. Rhodes Scholars have gone on to leadership in all sectors of society, ” said Elliot Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust.
From approximately 2,500 applicants, 960 were endorsed by their institution. Of the 960, 14-17 American finalists were selected from 16 U.S. districts explained Thom Yu, associate director of U.S. Operations for the U.S. Rhodes American Trust. Yu advised that numbers are estimates.
Finalists are then invited to interview with a selection committee. Two students are then awarded from each U.S. district and the 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars join an international group from more than 60 countries for a total of 100 scholars. If Jefferson is selected, he will be Jackson State University’s first Rhodes Scholar.“This opportunity could super elevate what I am trying to do in life. I would be attaining a degree from one of the best universities in the world. It’s fully funded. It would help develop my ideologies regarding domestic change. I would also be studying with like-minded individuals and make major professional connections,” said Jefferson, who one day plans to be mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, his hometown.
The Rhodes Scholarship was established in 1902 by British businessman Cecil John Rhodes and in partnership with the Second Century Founders, John McCall MacBain O.C. and The Atlantic Philanthropies, and several other benefactors. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars was selected in 1903.
According to a 2018 release, the selection criteria are based on several conditions including academic excellence, personal energy, ambition for impact and an ability to work with others to achieve goals. Additionally, Rhodes Scholars should be committed to making a positive world impact, cognizant of injustice, concerned for the wellbeing of others, dedicated to service, and be of upstanding character and intellect, seemingly all qualities found in successful leadership.
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship can vary based on academic study and degree but ranges from $70,000 to 250,000 per year.
To date, approximately 3500 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships representing over 300 colleges and universities. Some notable Rhodes Scholars are MSNBC show host Rachel Maddow, actor and singer Kris Kristofferson, former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, NFL player Myron Rolle and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal