2019 class of U.S. Rhodes Scholars prepares for Oxford

Elena Gallina standing outdoors (John Kelly/Boise State University)
Elena Gallina (John Kelly/Boise State University)

Growing up in Kosovo in the early 2000s gave Elena Gallina, the daughter of American humanitarian aid workers there, an intimate understanding of the challenges of rebuilding a country after an armed conflict.

Today Gallina is preparing for her studies at Oxford University in England as an American Rhodes Scholar. There she will pursue a master’s degree in refugee and forced migration studies and a Master of Business Administration degree. She is particularly excited about helping women and girls caught in conflict.

“I hope it’ll allow me to give more people access to achieve their own empowerment,” says Gallina, who served as an Albanian refugee interpreter while she earned a bachelor’s degree at Boise State University in Idaho.

Gallina is among the 32 American students elected into the 2019 class of U.S. Rhodes Scholars. Nearly half of the 2019 U.S. scholars are immigrants or first-generation Americans, and 21 are women — the most ever elected to an American Rhodes class.

The scholarships were endowed in 1902 by British businessman and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes.

Lia Petrose standing in building (© Christopher Chirdon/University of Pittsburgh)
Lia Petrose (© Christopher Chirdon/University of Pittsburgh)

Lia Petrose plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in computer science and philosophy at Oxford. As an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, Petrose studied how to use electronic medical records in a way that improves the way health care is provided to patients in developing countries like Malawi. Now a research assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Petrose is investigating public and private incentives for innovation in health-care markets.

“I hope to use health data to inform clinical decisionmaking, especially in low-resource settings like Malawi and Ethiopia, at the same time advocating for patient agency and ownership over these data,” says Petrose, who grew up in Ethiopia. She hopes the program at Oxford will help her gain the technical skills she needs to compute electronic medical record data while at the same time exploring moral questions around patient advocacy, such as privacy and access to research.

Rayan Alsemeiry standing next to his bicycle (© Michael Marsland/YaleNews)
Rayan Alsemeiry (© Michael Marsland/YaleNews)

Rayan Alsemeiry plans to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy at Oxford. Having gone through periods of homelessness when his family first moved to Mesa, Arizona, from Saudi Arabia in 2001, he developed a passion for helping vulnerable communities. He is currently studying poverty and social exclusion at Yale University.

“The Rhodes scholarship will allow me to dedicate myself fully to thinking through how we can address poverty and social isolation — issues that people like my mom and many of my neighbors in Mesa face for an entire lifetime,” he says.

Gallina, Petrose and Alsemeiry are among the 100 Rhodes Scholars from more than 60 countries who will attend Oxford starting in October 2019.

This article was written by freelancer Linda Wang.