Yale News

After hours of anticipation at the Gleacher Center in Chicago, Illinois, Madison Hahamy ’24 received the good news: she had been named one of the two Rhodes Scholars in her district in Illinois. 

When she learned she had won, Hahamy immediately ran to the bathroom, with a pair of heels in hand and shoes untied, to change into her heels and celebrate. 

Hahamy — a former reporter for the News — is one of four Yale seniors to be awarded with a 2024 Rhodes Scholarship. Come fall, she will join Jackie Testamark ’24, the other American winner, and Iman Iftikhar ’23.5 and Victoria Kipngetich ’24, two international recipients, at Oxford. The four women are among 62 students globally to receive this year’s Rhodes Scholarship.

“I ran outside [of the New York Public Library] as soon as I could because my parents had come into Manhattan with me and took their day off,”  Testamark said. “So it was my parents, my sister and I [locked] in a group hug outside the library right after I found out.”

The Rhodes Scholarship provides funding for two or three years at Oxford University. This year’s Yale recipients have academic interests ranging from journalism to social sciences, history and art.

Rhodes Scholars are elected on the basis of criteria established in the will of Cecil Rhodes, the scholarship’s benefactor. Such criteria include academic excellence, ambition for social impact, collaborative aptitude and a promise of leadership. This year was also the first the Rhodes Trust returned to in-person interviews following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They 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, wrote in a press release announcing the American winners.

Nyasha Mukonoweshuro, an international student who is taking graduate coursework at Yale as a 2023-2024 Henry Fellow, also received a Rhodes Scholarship this year. She recently graduated from Loughborough University and hopes to pursue a B.A. in jurisprudence at Oxford.

Iman Iftikhar

After a 15-hour flight to her interview in Islamabad, Pakistan, Iftikhar was relieved and overwhelmed when she was told she had won the scholarship.

She felt she was not only carrying her personal hopes and dreams, but also those of the ten other finalists in her constituency, who, she believes, deserved the award equally. 

“First thing that I felt was relief, but I also felt overwhelmed,” Iftikhar said. “I felt the responsibility that comes with winning such a big award; particularly also because everybody that I had met at the interviews was amazing and an incredible person.”

At Yale, Iftikhar is a history and philosophy double major. Her thesis focuses on the intellectual lineage of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a human rights movement in Pakistan born out of the war on terror.

At Oxford, she plans on pursuing a two year master’s program studying intellectual history or political theory followed by a second master’s degree in South Asian studies. 

Madison Hahamy 

Hahamy, who is an English major, previously served as a staff reporter for the News and a senior editor for The New Journal at Yale. She is pursuing a certificate in human rights at Oxford and plans on studying the theory and history of antisemitism. Thus, she will complete her first master’s in refugee and forced migration studies, followed by another master’s in English from 1900 to present.

This semester, she is doing a human rights capstone project and an English independent study. She is examining the ways in which journalism and human rights both complement and contradict each other — or in her words  “how journalism helps and harms people” to understand how journalism can improve in the future.

“I’m thinking of using the first degree as a way to gain understanding of antisemitism and then the second degree as a way to study how literature and journalism have both portrayed antisemitism,” she said. 

Jackie Testamark

Testamark, a classical civilizations and history double major, plans to study the history of art and visual culture at Oxford. Specifically, she hopes to examine the advent of museums and the imperial acquisition of artworks and artifacts from across the globe. She aims to work with curators to build a decolonial museum that recontextualizes the objects and puts them in a more global and holistic context.

Testamark plans to focus her studies on the heyday of Western imperialism from the 15th through 18th centuries.

“I want to examine the legacy of classicism in that period and the value that people put on this Greco Roman education,” she told the News.

Victoria Kipngetich

For Kipngetich, who is from Kenya, her Yale coursework has tried to interrogate Africa’s role in the world, particularly in relation to an emerging multipolar order — a system in which multiple states have similar levels of power.

For her first master’s degree, she plans to study global governments and diplomacy, especially regarding other rising and middle powers, to understand what Kenya can learn from them. She wants to follow it with a master’s in public policy and translate those theories into tangible policy and actionable strategy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kenya as a diplomat.

Path to the Rhodes

Students interested in studying at Oxford as Rhodes Scholars start their journeys in the spring of their junior year, when the Office of Fellowships offers workshops and information sessions about the fellowships available for study in the UK and Ireland. Throughout the summer, they offer individual advising for those students considering applying for fellowships such as the Rhodes, according to Emma Rose, Director of the Office of Fellowships at Yale.

American Yalies then submit applications via the Student Grants Database to outline their intentions for studying at Oxford in order to gain the University’s endorsement for the scholarship. Applicants are then interviewed by the Yale campus committee for endorsement. Those selected by the committee go through to the national competition, in which nominees from across America compete within 16 U.S. districts. Students from outside of the U.S. may apply for the Global Rhodes or the Rhodes specific to their country of origin, which have slightly different deadlines. 

If an applicant who was endorsed by Yale is selected as a finalist in the national competition, they are then invited to interview in their home district.

The Yale Office of Fellowships supports Rhodes hopefuls as they move through the application process. While the office is not allowed to help applicants craft their applications, they offer other kinds of resources to help them prepare, according to Emma Rose, director of the Fellowships office. The office helps students select recommenders and stages mock interviews for finalists, Rose told the News.

According to Rose, the Rhodes scholarship is unique among the many fellowships offered by the University because it allows recipients to study among a community of distinguished scholars dedicated to creating a positive social impact — what Rose calls a “life-changing” opportunity. 

“We are so delighted that these exceptional students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in their chosen field of study as Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University,” Rose wrote in an email to the News. “We wish them many congratulations on the excellent and well-deserved outcome of all their dedication and hard work. We also would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people across the University who were involved in supporting and endorsing Yale’s finalists this year.”

The first Rhodes Scholarships were awarded in 1902.

Update, Nov. 16: The article originally stated that four Yalies won 2023 Rhodes Scholarships. Although only four Yale College students won Rhodes Scholarships, a fifth student who is currently taking graduate coursework at Yale as a Henry Fellow, also won the scholarship. The article has been updated to reflect this.

Omar Ali covers science, technology and academics for the News. Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, he is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in Economics with Mathematics and Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology.
Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.