UO senior is named the UO’s first Rhodes Scholar since 2007

University of Oregon senior Nayantara Arora has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford, making her the first Duck to earn the prized award in more than 15 years.

This article was first published by Around the O on November 14, 2023. 

University of Oregon senior Nayantara Arora has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford, making her the first Duck to earn the prized award in more than 15 years.

Arora is among 32 U.S. recipients of the fellowships this year, which fund two to three years of study at Oxford and are the oldest international fellowship awards in the world. This year’s Rhodes scholars “inspire us already with their accomplishments, but even more by their values-based leadership and selfless ambitions to improve their communities and the world,” Ramona L. Doyle, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in the announcement.

At Oxford, Arora will pursue two master’s degrees, one in modeling for global health and the other in international health and tropical medicine.

“I think it’s the first time in my life that my jaw has unironically dropped,” she said of hearing the good news. “I spent the first few minutes in absolute disbelief and guilt because I was surrounded by deserving, hardworking, and brilliant peers. The actual excitement and adrenaline didn’t hit me until I had the chance to pinch myself, hug everyone, and shake the judges’ hands several times.

Arora will be the first Rhodes Scholar from the UO since 2007 and is the only recipient from a Pac-12 institution this year. She was assisted throughout the process by the Office of Distinguished Scholarships, which provides comprehensive advising and guidance to UO students and recent alumni who wish to apply for competitive national and international scholarships and fellowships. Arora becomes the 20th UO student to receive the award since the scholarships’ 1902 inception.

“To be selected for a Rhodes Scholarship is an extraordinary achievement, and we are honored and proud to have Nayantara as our student,” said UO President Karl Scholz. “During her time at UO, she has conducted impressive research, demonstrated remarkable drive and leadership, and immersed herself in a wide array of international experiences. I look forward to seeing the impact she will have in the field of global public health or wherever her interests take her.”

Arora, who is from Portland, is majoring in neuroscience at the Clark Honors College and pursuing two minors in chemistry and global health. She conducts research in two areas: global health biomarkers in Tunisia and the relationship between the vascular system and Alzheimer’s disease, working with UO professors Josh Snodgrass and Ashley Walker respectively.

A first-generation Indian American, Arora speaks many languages and is fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English; she also is learning Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish. She spent time living in Oregon and in India as she grew up.

“Code-switching is intrinsic to my life, due to my multilingual household, and contributes to my flexibility in unfamiliar situations,” Arora wrote in her Rhodes personal statement. “With a family history of storytelling, I am drawn towards empathy, open communication, and reconciliation as powerful keys to solving the nuanced issues we face in communities today.”

Arora is a Stamps Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa Public Service Scholar, and an Oxford Consortium for Human Rights fellow. While at the UO, she has traveled to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia and Ghana through the UO’s Division of Global Engagement to pursue interests in global health.

She has interned with the U.S. State Department as a content creator since 2019 and, as a high school student, co-founded a grassroots organization dedicated to highlighting immigrant youth stories through story-exchange workshops and a podcast. She also is an accomplished violinist and has been a performer in Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance, since she was a child.

“Studying at Oxford will further diversify my global health perspective,” Arora said. “I’m excited to research at the intersection of my undergraduate studies in neuroscience with the degrees in global health and epidemiology by collaborating with professors, public health leaders, and medical professionals. Most of all, I’m thrilled to meet this year’s global cohort of Rhodes scholars, who will undoubtedly be inspiring classmates.”

—By Saul Hubbard, Division of Undergraduate Studies and Student Success

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