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Brooklyn woman named Rhodes Scholar thrilled to study at Oxford


All Rhodes lead to Oxford — and scholar Thamara Jean can’t wait to make her first trip to England.


Jean, 22, is among a group of 32 men and women from the United States who selected for postgraduate studies at Oxford University as Rhodes Scholars.


She’ll get to spend the next two years studying political theory at the prestigious university.


“I knew the odds were slim, but I was confident in the goals that I had and hoped that would shine through,” the Hunter College senior told the Daily News.

Brooklyn woman one of 10 African-Americans named Rhodes Scholars

The Brooklyn-born aspiring academic graduated from the public school system, then Hunter College.

(Courtesy of Thamara Jean)


Jean, the child of Haitian immigrants, was born and raised in Old Mill Basin, Brooklyn.


The aspiring academic is a product of the public school system in Midwood, where she graduated with honors from Public School 193/Gil Hodges Elementary and Edward R. Murrow High School.


She chose Hunter College because of its strong political science department and desire to stay in New York.


At Hunter College she was inspired by a class entitled “Perspectives on Peace,” taught by Prof. Carolyn Somerville.


“She was the one who introduced me to the idea of getting a Ph.D. and being in academia,” Jean recalled.


Somerville also successfully nominated her for a prominent Mellon Mayes undergraduate fellowship, which included a $7,500 stipend.


As a Macaulay Honors student at Hunter College, Jean wrote her senior thesis on the Black Lives Matter movement.


The paper details the philosophical foundations of the movement. It concluded “that all protest movements against racial oppression should be rooted in optimist traditions that essentially affirm black life.”

Not Released (NR)

Oxford University in England.

(Carl Court/Getty Images)


Her research on that paper, which was published in The Journal of Politics and Society, inspired her Rhodes Scholar application.


“I decided to look into applying for fellowships that I knew could support the ideas I was interested in, but also ground me in the foundational ideas that I was thinking about challenging,” she said. She plans to study for a master’s degree in political theory at the historic university.


Jean beat out 866 applicants for the opportunity.


The grueling process first required a nomination from Hunter College. Then, Jean wrote a personal statement highlighting her background and what she wanted to contribute as a leader in political science.


And on Saturday, she made it to the final round, a probing interview with a seven-person selection committee.


“We had a really extensive conversation about my opinions,” she said.

Jean (lt.) beat out 866 applicants for the chance to receive postgraduate studies at the renowned Oxford University.

Jean (lt.) beat out 866 applicants for the chance to receive postgraduate studies at the renowned Oxford University.

(Courtesy of Thamara Jean)


A few hours after the interview, she was notified about her selection.


“I was pretty shocked and surprised, but pleasantly so,” she recalled. “It was really affirming that they saw the value and merit in the ideas that I was trying to push forward.”


Her father, Vital Jean, the groundskeeper for Temple Beth Emeth in Prospect Park South, and her mother, Grace Arnauld, a nurse for the city’s Health Department, were also overjoyed.


Jean has never been to England but is excited about living abroad.

With Chelsia Rose Marcius

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