Cameron Clarke had never heard of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship program before he applied. The Howard senior figured that he’d consider it an achievement if he were merely among the finalists.

Then came the stunning news: The Richmond native was named one of 32 American college students to be selected for the elite opportunity to study at Oxford University in England. In doing so, he became Howard’s fourth Rhodes scholar and the first in more than a decade.

“It never really entered my mind,” Clarke said of being selected as a Rhodes Scholar. “Now that it’s real, it feels like it’s almost a responsibility. . . . I feel to some extent that I have to live up to the legacy.”

Clarke was one of seven Rhodes recipients from colleges in the Washington region, including University of Virginia students Aryn Frazier of Silver Spring, Md., and Lauren Jackson of Little Rock; James Pavur, of Atlanta, from Georgetown University; Nicole Mihelson, of Fullerton, Calif., from Johns Hopkins University; Pasquale Toscano, of Kettering, Ohio, from Washington and Lee University; and Lucinda Ford, of St. Augustine, Fla., from the United States Naval Academy.

The 32 scholarship recipients bested more than 850 students who applied from 300 U.S. colleges. Clarke, a double major in community health education and biology, is planning to attend medical school and beginning in fall 2017 will study for a master of science degree in primary health care at Oxford University in England.

“We are extremely proud of Mr. Clarke’s accomplishment,” said Howard president Wayne A.I. Frederick. “Mr. Clarke’s academic pursuits will lead to solutions in the broader society that are needed ever more so today. Cameron is the epitome of Howard University’s gift of solutions to the world.”

According to the Rhodes Trust, the British charity that runs the program, scholars “are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”

For the first time, more than half of the applicants for the scholarships were women and 18 women were selected as scholarship winners, matching a record set in 1995.

A Howard adviser suggested that Clarke apply for the Rhodes program because of his deep resume and Clarke said he had not previously heard of the scholarship. He is a certified emergency medical technician, a published academic research author, news editor of the campus newspaper and a congressional intern for the U.S. House Committee on science, space and technology. He also has conducted field research at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia as well as cancer studies at the National Institutes of Health.

Krista Johnson, who serves as Clarke’s faculty adviser for the Howard chapter of GlobeMed, a public health service group, said that he represents “the best and brightest that we have.” Johnson said Clarke “has a deep commitment to service and a deep commitment to public health.”

Clarke is the first Howard Rhodes Scholar since Marianna Ofosu in 2003. The other two Howard recipients are Carla Peterman in 1999 and Mark Alleyne in 1986.

Clarke said that while he is proud of the scholarship, he has not been too focused on awards or honors.

“I’ve never really been concerned about my personal success or level of achievement,” Clarke said. “It’s about how much good I can do. If this helps me do more good or do it on a broader scale, then that’s great.”

Aryn Frazier, a Rhodes scholarship recipient from U-Va.  Frazier, 20, of Laurel, Maryland, a fourth-year politics honors and African-American studies major, will pursue a master of philosophy degree in comparative politics.
(University of Virginia)

Frazier, a U-Va. senior who is a double-major in African American and African studies, said that she partly decided to apply for the Rhodes program as an exercise in self-reflection. As president of the university’s Black Student Alliance, Frazier served as a campus representative addressing racial tensions after a student was bloodied during an encounter with state law enforcement officers outside a bar near campus. The introspection she experienced as she drafted her personal statement for the Rhodes application helped her more clearly chart the path she wants for her future, Frazier said.

At Oxford, Frazier will study for a master’s degree in comparative politics, specializing her research on how political ideologies are formed.

“As long as I’ve been observing politics, I’ve never seen us as divisive,” Frazier said. She hopes her research will open a window to having “more civil discourse across political lines and hopefully come to common understanding about what are the best ways to move forward politically and socially.”