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UA student pursues her dreams as a Rhodes Scholar

Leah Crowder, an University of Arizona graduate with a degree in Middle Eastern & North African studies, was one of 32 students selected to be a Rhodes Scholar. Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their scholarly achievements, but also for their chara

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Courtesy Leah Crowder | The Daily Wildcat

Leah Crowder has worked with UA Global and other organizations while at the UA. She has a degree in Middle Eastern studies and North African studies.

Crowder is the only student in Arizona to get selected for the honor. The Daily Wildcat talked to Crowder and asked her about her achievement and what that meant for her as a person and as a student. 

Daily Wildcat: Who inspired you to apply for such a prestigious honor?

Leah Crowder: I have some incredible mentors at UA, most notably Maggy Zanger and Laura Provencher. They encourage me to take on challenges and address the world’s most pressing issues. 

DW: What was the application process?

LC: I reached out to the Honors College while working at a circus camp in Turkey. The campus deadline was several months before the national deadline, so I had to write my essays on my phone. I recommend starting long before August.

DW: What does the Rhodes Scholarship mean for you?

LC: I will complete my PhD in International Relations at the University of Oxford. I plan to study grassroots peacebuilding efforts in conflict-affected areas of the Middle East.

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DW: How did your family and friends react after you were chosen?

LC: They immediately started looking for flights to London to visit me. I haven’t even gotten into Oxford yet.

DW: Why did you get a degree in Middle Eastern & North African studies? 

LC: I’ve been interested in the Middle East since I moved to Turkey as a high school exchange student. Living in Tucson piqued my interest in the study of borderlands, so I booked a flight to the Turkey-Syria border. Totally normal. 

DW: How did getting this achievement feel for you? 

LC: It’s an incredible honor. I was shocked when they announced my name, but reality is finally starting to set in. 

DW:What achievements and activities have you been a part of at the UA? 

LC: During college, I worked with DocVisions, an outreach program for immigrant youth in Tucson that teaches film production skills. Before working as a resident assistant, I was active in the Residence Halls Association and Advocates Coming Together. Participating in each of these activities allowed me to contribute to my communities in different ways. Residence Life, in particular, helped me adjust to campus as an out-of-state student. I have also worked as a student assistant at UA Global throughout my time here and conducted independent research with faculty. Working at UA Global helped me develop important professional skills. Conducting independent research as an undergraduate gave me the confidence to apply for prestigious PhD programs, like Oxford DPhil in International Relations.

DW: What challenges have you faced in your college career and how did you overcome them? 

LC: When I moved to Arizona from Virginia, I didn’t know anybody. The School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies has been my home for the past four years. I don’t think I would be here without such a close, supportive department behind me.

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DW: What do you want to do with your future?

LC: In the immediate future, I want to continue working on youth programs in conflict and post-conflict environments. Eventually, I would like to write a book and potentially return to the university setting as a professor of practice.

DW: What advice do you have for future UA students?

LC: The University of Arizona provides so many resources for students to conduct independent research, to travel and to pursue niche interests. You just have to find them. Ask questions and stay curious.

DW: What is your ideal job or career and why?

LC: I don’t have an ideal career. I want to travel and creatively approach global challenges like war and migration. At this point, I don’t care if I do that with an NGO, at a university or as a journalist. 

DW: When did you find your passion, and what was that like?

LC: My passions change as I learn. I will always love helping people overcome personal challenges, whether in the residence hall or in a disaster zone. I just pursue what interests me and hope everything works out. That seems to be going well so far.


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