Seniors Camille Borders and Jasmine Brown awarded Rhodes Scholarships
Washington University seniors Camille Borders and Jasmine Brown were two out of 32 U.S. undergraduates to be named Rhodes Scholars Nov. 18.
The prestigious Rhodes scholarship offers students the opportunity to study at Oxford University and earn an advanced degree. Borders and Brown being selected raises the total number of Washington University Rhodes Scholars to 29.
Brown is majoring in biology and plans to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience, while Borders is majoring in history and plans to earn a master of philosophy degree in social and economic history, focusing on the global slave trade.
The two scholars expressed excitement and gratitude after the announcement of the finalists this Saturday.
“It feels surreal. I’m living my dream and I’m just in shock that it’s a reality. I’m so excited and grateful for this opportunity,” Brown said.
“I’m feeling really grateful for the community of people that have sustained me at Wash. U.,” Borders said. “I’m grateful for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and certain administrators and deans and professors that have helped me to prosper at Wash. U., and also my amazing community of friends…If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be grateful.”
Brown has distinguished herself as a hardworking researcher, studying lung cancer at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, as well as the effects of certain drugs at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Miami School of Medicine. She is currently researching molecular pathways that the West Nile and Zika virus travel to infect the brain at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Borders is a Stamp Scholar as well as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, where she worked as a research assistant on the oral history project “Documenting Ferguson.” She has also studied history at the University of Bristol through the Fulbright Summer Institute and spent six months at the University of Ghana. She is currently working on her senior thesis, titled “The Possibility of Desire: Sexual Choice Within U.S. Colored Troops Widow’s Pensions.”
Borders and Brown are both members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as well as the John B. Ervin scholarship program.
Dean of the Ervin Scholars program and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Robyn Hadley expressed enthusiasm and pride for the two women who she has known since their freshman year.
“I’m on cloud nine. It’s cloud 10 if there’s somewhere higher than cloud nine. I’m just so excited for them,” Hadley said. “Individually, they have both been such hard workers, and I’m just excited for what it means—with only 32 students in the country being selected, it’s phenomenal to have students both from the same institution.”
Assistant Dean Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo believes that the Ervin Scholars program, founded on the principles of leadership, academic excellence, commitment to service and diversity, has played a part in the success of the scholars.
“I think the Ervin Program is definitely a key component of their success, but both of them work really hard in their respective fields and seek out mentorship in whatever community they join,” Toliver-Diallo said. “I feel like they both really understand what it means to be resourceful and to make communities wherever they are, and I think that’s really important.”
Sophomore Lizzie Franclemont commented on the impact that the Ervin program has had on her, especially seeing upperclassmen like Borders and Brown succeed.
“I would definitely say it’s insane, to say the slightest,” Franclemont said. “, I’ve already gone through a year here of seeing how much everyone has achieved, and I’m always left in awe…It really feels like I’m within this community of people who are going to change the world in so many different ways.”
According to Borders, this year has a record number of 10 black Rhodes Scholars.
“[It’s] super incredible, and I’m really excited about what that means for our country and what that means for how we can uplift marginalized communities,” Borders said.
Both Borders and Brown have contributed to the support for minority students on campus. Brown founded the Minority Association of Rising Scientists, which advocates for and supports underrepresented students in STEM fields. Borders helped to create Washington University Students in Solidarity, which facilitates race-relations discussions between students and the University.
“Everything that I’ve done at Wash. U. has been motivated by a need that I’ve seen in my community around me…in the marginalized parts of our student body,” Borders said. “I’ve seen other students go through similar experiences that I’ve had concerning invisibility, micro-aggressions, the consequences of the lack of dialogue on campus surrounding diversity and inclusion in all of its nuances. So everything I’ve done, all of the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve put in at Wash. U., has been because of the community that I care about, and the work that I could do was enabled because of the amazing community around me.”
Franclemont said both scholars have inspired her, specifically saying that Borders has been one of “he greatest influencers of her time at Washington University, both as a friend and as a role model as a minority.
“[With] Ervin having a really diverse demographic of students in comparison to the student body that’s present at Wash. U., it’s been really inspiring to see people who look like me—or maybe have similar backgrounds that I do—and watching them blaze their own trails and really defy a lot of the stereotypes and expectations that were put into place for minority race students,” Franclemont said.
Borders cites her authenticity as one of her greatest strengths.
“I guess if what I’m thinking about what led to me earning this distinction, it would be just that I was myself,” she said. “I never sacrificed my authenticity for anything.”
Brown looks forward to her experience as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
“I’m excited to experience this journey and to see how it will help me grow, “ Brown said.
As staff members of the Ervin program, Hadley and Toliver-Diallo have high hopes for the futures of both seniors.
“I just see for them this continuation of being committed scholars…in their respective fields, and definitely taking that lesson of making the world better than when it was before they came,” Hadley said.
“These are two well-deserving young ladies and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them at Oxford as part of the Rhodes community,” Toliver-Diallo said.