By SLOANE GRINSPOON
Rachel Harmon ’15, a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was one of 32 American college students selected to be a Rhodes Scholar for 2015. She will be given a full scholarship for two years of graduate study at Oxford College in England beginning next October.
Harmon — who plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation at Oxford — is currently writing an honors thesis that discusses “strategies for economic justice for low-income Mississippians,” according to the profiles of the scholarship recipients on the American Rhodes Scholarship website.
“My academic interests center on the economic, political and social well-being of disadvantaged communities,” Harmon said. “I have a particular interest in African-American communities in the rural South, which have largely been understudied.”
At Cornell, Harmon is a teaching assistant in the Cornell Prison Education Program, a program through which Cornell students teach various subjects at the Auburn Correctional Facility — a maximum-security prison.
“I have volunteered with the CPEP since my sophomore year and that has been one of [my] most meaningful extracurricular activities,” she said.
Prior to attending Cornell, Harmon said she took a gap year to volunteer for AmeriCorps, where she was a tutor at a rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta — one of the poorest regions of the state.
“During [the gap] year, I grappled on a daily basis with the inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities in our country,” Harmon said. “I finished this year with a great sense of urgency and an awareness of the importance of developing public policy driven by results — not divisive political rhetoric or lofty ideals.”
Harmon said she hopes her Oxford education will provide her with the tools to implement “fundamental policy changes” that will provide a higher quality of life for the children and families she “grew to care about.”
Harmon has received research scholarships in the past — she is a Hunter Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar and she received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholarship last year.
The last time students from Cornell received the Rhodes Scholarship was in 2013, when Christopher Dobyns ’13 and Daniel Young ’13 were selected.