Jackson Selected as Emory’s First Black Rhodes Scholar

Chelsea Jackson (18C) has been selected as a 2018 Rhodes Scholar, the 20th Emory student and first African-American Emory student to earn the prestigious scholarship.

Jackson, a political science and African American studies double major, will head to Oxford University in England next year to obtain a master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. Granted to 32 American students annually, the Rhodes Scholarship covers all university fees and provides a stipend for necessary expenses and transportation to and from England, according to the Nov. 18 Rhodes Trust release. This year, 866 students nationwide were nominated for consideration by their colleges. The total value of the scholarship averages about $68,000 per year, the release says.

Applicants for the scholarship are evaluated based on academic excellence, commitment to making a difference for bettering the world, concern for the welfare of others and consciousness of inequities, according to the release.

“I was so thankful, excited, over the moon,” Jackson said. “I still feel like I’m in shock.”

At Emory, Jackson has been a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Black Pre-Law Society, musical director of a cappella group AHANA and a committee chair for Emory’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She is also a communications intern for the Commission on Racial and Social Justice in Campus Life and a diversity initiatives fellow for the Office of Undergraduate Admission.

Jackson said that she became interested in pursuing criminology and criminal justice post-graduation through her on-campus and Atlanta activism, as well as courses such as Politics and Punishment and The Ferguson Movement that she took at Emory.

Of the eight applications submitted to Emory’s nomination committee for the Rhodes Scholarship, the committee chose to endorse five candidates, Director of the National Scholarships and Fellowships Program in the Office for Undergraduate Education Megan Friddle said. The nomination committee was composed of eight faculty members and senior administrators, according to Friddle. The last Emory student to win the prestigious scholarship was Leah Michalove (16C) two years ago.

Friddle added that Jackson boasted an impressive combination of service, research and academics in her resume.

Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies Carol Anderson first met Jackson as a guest lecturer for The Ferguson Movement course and said she was immediately impressed by Jackson’s tenacity.

“She was amazing — there was an incisiveness about her questioning, about her analysis,” Anderson said. Jackson later took Anderson’s course on the civil rights movement.

Anderson also commended Jackson’s dedication to the community, pointing to her work with social justice at Emory.

“[She has] a commitment to making a place better for others, better than what it was than when she came in,” Anderson said. “That’s saying a lot because it’s really easy to be all about me: I’ve got to get my grades, I’ve got to do my work, I’ve got to get into my top school. Chelsea thinks in terms of ‘we.’”

Associate Professor of Political Science Michael Owens, who met Jackson during her sophomore year and is co-directing her thesis, echoed Anderson’s sentiments about Jackson’s academic excellence.

“I’ve had her in at least three courses, and she was always a standout in the eyes of faculty members and in the eyes of her peers,” Owens said. “She’s truly among one of the absolute best students I’ve ever taught at Emory.”

Owens said that Jackson’s selection for the scholarship increases the value of an Emory degree and reminds people that Emory produces “amazing students and future leaders.”

“We like to get into, ‘Is Emory a top-20 school or not?’” Owens said. “This reminds us that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the investments that we make in our students, and what matters is the investments students make in themselves, allowing themselves to compete against anybody.”

Associate Professor of Political Science Andra Gillespie, Jackson’s major adviser, first met Jackson when Jackson tried to take Gillespie’s upper-level political science course during her freshman year. Although Gillespie talked Jackson out of taking that class, Gillespie said that Jackson’s intellectual curiosity made her a great student to have in courses later in her academic career.

“She’s not satisfied with just obtaining a shallow understanding of what she studies,” Gillespie said. “She pushes her classmates also to dig deeper and be more excellent.”

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