Outstanding Zimbabwean Awarded Rhodes Scholarship

Rutendo Chigora
Rutendo Chigora

A Zimbabwean student based in the United States is one of the two who has been named Rhodes Scholars by the Zimbabwe Rhodes Scholarship selection committee.

Rutendo Chigora, a final year student at the University of Pennsylvania, won the prestigious award alongside Christopher Sherwood, who is studying Mathematics with Finance at the University of Exeter in the UK.

“I was in complete disbelief …one of the things you hear about the Rhodes is that nobody applies for it expecting to get it – so in that moment that the National Secretary said my name and Christopher’s, it all felt unreal,” Rutendo told ZimPAS. “Now, I am just incredibly thankful for the opportunity and for the faith that the selection committee has placed in me.”

She paid tribute to her experience at her college in the United States. “One of the hallmarks of the Penn experience is being enabled and supported to follow your ideas through as far as you can,” she said. “The university’s commitment to undergraduate research and interdisciplinary study gave me so many opportunities to learn and create knowledge in ways that were meaningful for my personal and academic growth. There were so many resources for me to tap into whenever I was curious about something and even more of them when I became decidedly passionate about social impact and development,” said the former Dominican Convent (Harare) student.

In addition to her academic achievements, Rutendo, founded ZW Connect, a business incubator for Zimbabwean community centers geared towards weaning them off an absolute reliance on donations. Rutendo is a Benjamin Franklin Scholar at Penn, recognized for her capacity for interdisciplinary study, a member of the Onyx Senior Honor Society, and is involved in several extracurricular activities at Penn. She was also a recipient of the Joshua Nkomo Scholarship at O’ Level. At Oxford, she intends to join the Blavatnik School of Government’s Master of Public Policy program.

Rutendo emulates previous recipients Naseemah Mohamed and Dalumuzi Mhlanga, both Bulawayo residents who studied for their first degrees at Harvard University in Massachusetts two years ago. Previous U.S. university-based Zimbabwean Rhodes Scholars include Sarah Jane Littleford who, like Rutendo, studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Mutsa Mutembwa, who was at Indiana University, and Tafadzwa Muguwe, who earned a first degree at Swarthmore College and continued his studies at Harvard Medical School after his Rhodes.

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and most scholars work towards a masters degree or DPhil. In a statement, the selection committee described the Rhodes Scholarships as “postgraduate awards supporting outstanding all-round students at the University of Oxford, and providing transformative opportunities for exceptional individuals.”

Rhodes Scholars are selected on the basis of set criteria, including academic excellence; great personal energy, ambition for impact, and an ability to work with others and to achieve one’s goals. In addition, a Rhodes Scholar should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be conscious of inequities. And finally, a Rhodes Scholar should show great promise of leadership.

During a presentation at the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Eastgate on Tuesday, Dr. Tariro Makadzange, National Secretary for Rhodes Scholarships in Zimbabwe, explained the application procedure to interested students and said the scholarships were available to Zimbabweans from any university: “Applicants in Zimbabwe apply online after which they are invited for personal interviews by the selection committee,” she said. “The final selection is confirmed by the Rhodes Trust, who rely on selection procedures undertaken by the national selection committee.”

The Rhodes Scholarship committee will be making a similar presentation in Bulawayo early in 2015.

Rhodes Scholars were created in 1903 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer, and are provided in partnership with the Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain and other generous benefactors. The two Zimbabwean students will join a class of 81 other Scholars selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland) and Zambia.

Prominent Zimbabwean Rhodes Scholars include Arthur Mutambara, former Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity, and James Manyika, President Obama’s Advisor to the Global Development Council and director of the McKinsey Global Institute. – ZimPAS December 15, 2014