Rhodes University: Community Engagement student leader wins Rhodes Scholarship

Claire McCann, a Rhodes University Community Engagement student leader and joint Honours in Economics and Politics student, has been granted a Southern African Rhodes Scholarship to complete her Masters degree at the University of Oxford in England.

The scholarship identifies “young leaders from around the world who, through the pursuit of education together at Oxford [University], would forge bonds of mutual understanding and fellowship for the betterment of mankind”.

Oxford University fees are covered by the scholarship as well as an annual stipend. The stipend covers living expenses, including accommodation.

A number of research grants are also available to Rhodes Scholars, enabling them to attend international conferences or conduct additional fieldwork.

McCann said getting the scholarship was quite a long process, as the application involved six letters of recommendation and two very tough interviews. McCann believed she had done poorly in her second interview, so she was in a state of disbelief when Selection Committee Chair David Unterhalter phoned her with the good news.

McCann gave recognition to the people who helped shape her, those she met and formed relationships with through community engagement, the people at the Rhodes University Community Engagement offices, GADRA Education and many of the local schools, who showed her that reciprocal relationships are powerful.

“I recognise that with this privilege comes responsibility, and I hope I can orientate my learning towards social justice and the creation of a more inclusive South African economy and education sector,” said McCann.

The Capetonian-born student is in the middle of her Masters in Economics, where she is focusing on the perils and possibilities of South Africa’s Early Childhood Development sector, a topic close to her heart.

She said this is an exciting springboard for her future and hopes to be an academic one day focusing on feminist economics and engaged research. She said she hopes to do an MSc in Economics for Development at Oxford followed by a DPhil, which she believes will aid her in this endeavour.

“I wasn’t the top academic in high school but started to find my feet at the end of matric and when I came to Rhodes University,” she said.

McCann said she is excited to make connections from all over the world through the Rhodes Scholarship and is also enthusiastic about being part of an international community.

“For those thinking of applying for the scholarship, please do go for it. It is a long process, but such a wonderful opportunity and so many deserving people exclude themselves for fear of not being good enough,” she said.

McCann said she had been rejected for many other scholarships before, including several that she applied for this year. “The most important advice I got through this process was to lean into my most authentic self and try to be ‘me’ at my most honest and human rather than someone trying to be perfect. The selectors want to see who you are as a person,” she concluded.

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