Four Stanford seniors and one alumnus have been named 2018 Rhodes Scholars.
Alexis Kallen ’18, Madeleine Chang ’18 and Michael Chen ’18 are three of this year’s 32 American Rhodes Scholars; Jelani Munroe ’17 is the sole 2018 Jamaican Rhodes Scholar, and Thomas Cao ’18 is one of four 2018 Scholars who hails from China.
The Rhodes, widely renowned as one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, offers students the opportunity to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford. The scholarship, established in 1902, was named after British politician and mining tycoon Cecil J. Rhodes, whose trust established the award.
Kallen, a political science and feminist, gender and sexuality studies double major, plans to earn a M. Phil degree in Development Studies.
Kallen led efforts to replace “Scary Path,” an unofficial on-campus dirt walkway criticized for being unsafe at night. She cited paving the Knoll Path as the community contribution she’s most proud of.
“I think that I poured so much energy into that during my time at Stanford,” she said. “I know that it’s only a 528-foot path, but I think the fact that I was able to successfully work with a team of students and a team of administrators was helpful. It sent a message that if you keep fighting for issues of campus sexual assault in a respectful way, you can get things done.”
Kallen, whose passion for human rights and advocacy stem from her own experiences overcoming adversity — complications during her birth caused her cerebral palsy and resulted in her mother’s death — said she “came into the world fighting” and that she hopes her skill set will allow her to advocate for equal rights on a global level.
Kallen plans to attend law school back in the United States following her time as a Rhodes Scholar.
In her final interview for the Rhodes, Kallen said, she relished the opportunity to give credit to those who inspired and supported her throughout her academic journey — namely her freshman Resident Fellow, Stanford Law lecturer Luciana Herman, whom Kallen describes as “like close family,” and two friends, Kelsey Page ’18 and Kevin Haugh ’18.
“I was so honored to be able to talk about how my success is not my own doing, but the doing of the community at Stanford that has raised me up and empowered me,” Kallen said. “[Page] has encouraged me in every way possible throughout Stanford — whether that be letting me borrow all of her business clothes for these interviews, giving me a place to stay when needed, and just passionately believing in me and reminding me of my own worth.”
At Stanford, Kallen serves as chair of Stanford in Government. Last year, she was a Resident Assistant in Otero. Kallen has conducted research in the Stanford Policy and Governance Lab and is an advisor to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign. She is currently writing an honors thesis that examines international law and the sexual assault of Burundian refugees.
Kallen was also named a Truman Scholar last spring.
Munroe, who studied economics and public policy as an undergraduate and currently works as financial manager of the ASSU and as CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises, will also pursue a master’s degree in Development Studies at Oxford.
Munroe told The Daily that he will head to Oxford with “a lot of love for Stanford.”
“I’ve tried to pour myself into the communities that have welcomed me,” he said. “But for everything I’ve given, I’ve received multiple times over. Each of [my roles on campus] gave me something different, but ultimately they’ve allowed me to learn about myself and about leadership.”
At Stanford, Munroe served as director of Talisman, an a cappella group, was a Resident Assistant in Wilbur Hall, researched political psychology with Professor of Communication Jon Krosnick and coordinated Admit Weekend twice.
Munroe has also worked for the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, D.C. and wrote an honors thesis about Jamaica’s political economy.
“I care about political economy because it encompasses the wider context for how decisions get made on behalf of millions of people,” he explained, saying this focus contributed to his interest in sovereign debt management — something that he says affects public services such as the social safety net as well as “incentives for future regimes to carry out good policy.” He expects to continue exploring all these issues at Oxford.
A history major, Chang is currently writing an honors thesis examining the effects of crowdsourcing information on historical accounts — through the lens of the Wikipedia entry on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
No stranger to Oxford, Chang spent last fall at the university studying modern Arabic poetry, specifically work by Mahmoud Darwish, an esteemed Palestinian writer. Chang, who studied Arabic at Stanford, also speaks Hebrew and Spanish.
Chang said she was “surprised and honored” when she learned she had received the Rhodes, adding that she is “grateful to all the people in my life who made it possible — from family and friends to mentors and professors here at Stanford.”
Chang is co-president of the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford and is a staff member of an on-campus cooperative residence. She has contributed writing to The Daily as an opinions columnist and to the San Francisco Chronicle as a Rebele Journalism Intern.
Last summer, she conducted research at the Open Media and Information Companies Initiative in New York City.
Chang will pursue a master’s degree in social science of the internet through the Oxford Internet Institute.
“At Oxford, I hope to study an ethical framework for the digital era to focus on the social and political implications of technology,” she told The Daily.
Stanford Synapse president and chemistry major Michael Chen ’18 plans to study statistics and public policy at Oxford.
Chen co-founded Stanford Synapse as a freshman after noticing how many students neglected to wear bike helmets around campus. The organization, which has grown to include chapters at seven universities across the U.S., supports those with brain injuries; Chen is hoping to launch another chapter of the group at Oxford.
“People put cases on their phones, but they don’t put them on their heads – even though the main reason they’re here at Stanford is to get an education that will enrich their minds,” Chen told Stanford News.
Chen is behind a conference called “I Love My Stanford Brain” taking place next month that aims to raise awareness about brain injuries and promote use of helmets.
“Since I never studied abroad during my time at Stanford, I am looking forward to immersing in a new culture and connecting with a diverse group of fellow students from around the world,” Chen wrote in a statement to The Daily. “It is a very exciting time to be a young adult fresh out of college, and I can’t wait to see how my generation will work together to change the world for the better.”
In addition to his work on Stanford Synapse, Chen has delved into lab research as an undergraduate. His honors thesis focuses on thirst in mice — also the topic of a paper he co-authored that was published last fall in Science. After getting master’s degrees at Oxford, Chen hopes to pursue an MD/PhD and become a scientist and physician.
Cao, a political science major and computer science minor, also plans to study Social Science of the Internet at Oxford. He’s pursuing an honors degree through the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and a coterminal master’s degree in management science and engineering. Cao’s thesis, tentatively titled “The Internet Maneuvers of the Chinese Government,” focuses on digital-age strategies employed by a strong state.
Cao hails from Nanjing, China and will be the first Chinese Rhodes Scholar to have earned his undergraduate degree outside of China.
In an email to The Daily, Cao expressed gratitude to his professors in the political science and communications departments and at the Freeman Spogli Institute.
“I am also very grateful for Stanford’s financial aid, which allows me, someone from a very modest background in China, to access such excellent educational opportunities,” he wrote.
Cao describes himself as a “huge beneficiary of information” from the internet.
“I learned a lot from online, including how to apply to Stanford from China,” he wrote. “So I believe the award strengthens my sense of responsibility in conducting rigorous research that sheds light on our sociopolitical development in the digital age that we have been living through, as a way to contribute back to our society. At Oxford, I seek to extend my research on internet governance in different political contexts, which I believe is highly relevant to our world today.”
Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
An updated version of this article includes comments from Michael Chen.