Stanford senior on the 'Rhode' to Oxford with scholarship win
By JEFFREY TAM
While many Stanford seniors are still worrying and waiting to know if they've gotten into graduate school, Roxanne Joyal, a senior majoring in International Relations, is considerably more relaxed.
Joyal was recently named a Rhodes Scholarship winner. The Rhodes Scholarship provides for two years of study at Oxford and an optional third year. It is highly competitive, and Joyal, a Canadian national, won just one of 12 scholarships allotted to Canadian students this year.
At Oxford, Joyal will be studying economics and rural policy, with the ultimate goal of working at Doctors Without Borders or another charitable organization.
She said, "I'm really excited. I'm really hoping this [program] will be enriching."
Joyal explained that the application was arduous, especially because she was applying while abroad in Paris. She constantly had to keep in touch with staff at the Bechtel International Center who were helping her with the application and with the professors who were providing her with letters of recommendation through e-mail. The process was like taking a seven-unit course, she explained.
A big reason why she chose to come to Stanford as a transfer student stems from the year she took off from her studies at York University in Toronto.
"At the time, I was working at the Prime Minister's office of Canada, and I didn't know what to do with my life," she said. So she went to Thailand for half a year to help with the AIDS epidemic and to Kenya for half a year to do volunteer work helping Kenyan women become self-sufficient.
Joyal said, "The year off gave me the direction I needed, helped me discover my passion." When she returned, she knew she wanted to help alleviate poverty in the world, and she felt that it was also time to go to a school that provided more opportunities for this kind of work.
Indeed, she has been able to continue on this path at Stanford. Two summers ago, with an Undergraduate Research Opportunities grant, Joyal went back to Kenya to conduct research on women and poverty, upon which she is now basing her honors thesis. Last summer, she went to Zimbabwe to work for the World Bank through a Stanford In Government program.
In addition, she became a founding member of Free the Children, a non-profit organization that tries to protect children around the world from unfair work conditions and help them further their education.
Prof. Walter P. Falcon, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Studies, had Joyal as a student in his economics course, "World Food Economy" and worked with her on a research project for the class.
"She is a terrific recipient," he said. She's bright, energetic beyond belief, [has a] wonderful combination of field experience and classroom learning [and is] really willing to make a difference." He thought it was interesting that she was a transfer student, and added, "She took Stanford by storm, and made the most of her opportunities."
Richard Roberts, a professor in the History Department and the co-supervisor of Joyal's honors thesis, said, "I think it's terrific, but so is Roxanne. Roxanne has dedicated her life to cross-cultural development . . . she has a really developed sense of social justice."
The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded each year to students from around the world. The United States is allotted 32 slots each year. According to the official American Rhodes Scholarship Web site, "intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead."
The scholarships were established in 1902 under the will of Cecil J. Rhodes, a British statesman and financier. While glorified almost religiously during the days of the British Empire for his colonial efforts in Africa (he created the nation of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe) and his vision of British world domination, contemporaries have demonized him as a greedy imperialist who supported apartheid in South Africa.
Originally, only German, American or British nationals could win the scholarship, reflecting Rhodes' belief that this scholarship would bring together the Anglo-Saxon people of the world into one empire.
However, the American Rhodes Scholarship Web site had better things to say about Rhodes. It said that "Rhodes dreamed of improving the world through the diffusion of leaders motivated to serve their contemporaries, trained in the contemplative life of the mind and broadened by their acquaintance with one another and by their exposure to cultures different from their own."
Joyal is aware of the legacy of Cecil J. Rhodes and how he shaped the histories of the countries where she has been doing field work. In fact, one of the interview questions she faced during the application process was how she felt about Rhodes. Joyal said, "Rhodes had a vision, and he was wrong. He exploited people."
Joyal said that she will "hopefully help people live up to their full potential."
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