Chicago graduates named 2004 Rhodes scholars, will continue studies at OxfordBy Josh Schonwald
One student spent a summer working closely with former prostitutes, which led to a plan to curb youth prostitution in Chicago. The other student walked, bussed, motorcycled and even chartered a boat on Turkey’s Black Sea coast in a successful quest to replicate the ancient voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. These two recent graduates of the College, Andrew Kim and Ian Desai, have been awarded Rhodes scholarships for study at the University of Oxford.
This is the third time in less than a decade that multiple Chicago students have received this prestigious scholarship in one year, bringing Chicago’s total number of Rhodes scholars to 39.
“We’re very proud of them,” said Susan Art, Dean of Students in the College. “Ian and Andrew are remarkable individuals who have contributed so much to the University. I think their success does justice to the quality of the education we offer.”
Ian Desai, 22, hopes to build upon his undergraduate research that has explored a rarely undertaken subject: the relationship between modern and ancient Greece and South Asia. At Oxford, Desai plans to pursue degrees in both modern European literature and oriental studies.
Desai said he hopes his academic study will result in a deeper cross-cultural understanding with a social purpose. “I hope I can help build bridges between academic, business and non-governmental communities in order to foster social progress in the world,” he wrote in his Rhodes application.
A native of New York City, Desai graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2004, with an A.B. in Ancient Studies. He was elected a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor the University gives to undergraduates, and he received the University’s Brooker Prize in Book Collecting. He also received honors for an undergraduate thesis that compared the ancient Greek classic The Iliad with the classic South Asian text The Mahabharata.
“Ian Desai was one of those rare students who read every book I ever mentioned, discovered other books that I had not even known about, pestered me with questions, bombarded me with screeds, and demonstrated a learning curve as steep as Everest,” wrote Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor in the History of Religions in the Divinity School and the College, in Desai’s Rhodes recommendation.
Another eminent faculty member, James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College, who taught Desai at Chicago and on a study abroad program in Greece, praised his student not only for his intellect, but also for his daringness.
“He had the wild idea of chartering a ship and retracing Jason’s voyage along the south shore of the Black Sea,” wrote Redfield, “and he actually succeeded in doing so. The presentation he gave of this adventure is quite possibly the most successful presentation I have seen on this campus. I had an understanding with him that when he reached the border with Georgia he would stop, but of course, being Ian, he leapt on a bus headed for Tblisi.”
In addition to his academic and intellectual accomplishments, Desai was a leader of several extracurricular organizations. He co-founded and directed the Chicago Society, an organization that brings leading members of government, industry and policymaking to campus, and the Kashmir Project, which hosted conferences on the history and culture of the hotly contested region of Kashmir.
A month after completing his degree, Desai co-founded Linking Individuals Through Education, a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that is focused on promoting cross-cultural understanding.
Andrew Kim, 22, hopes to use his Rhodes scholarship to advance his understanding of refugee issues, human rights and conflict resolution. Kim, who plans to study international relations at Oxford, hopes to eventually work for the U.S. government or a not-for-profit organization that focuses on refugee issues in Africa.
While a Chicago student, Kim played cello in a blues band, worked on a community garden in South Chicago for Urban Farmers in Training, helped organize a citywide forum on social issues, and was deeply involved in the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy organization that addresses problems of homelessness.
As a policy associate for the coalition, Kim worked closely with women who had experienced prostitution as a member of the Prostitution Alternatives Round Table. As part of that work, Kim helped develop a citywide task force to envision new ways of responding to youth prostitution.
Last summer, Kim served as an intern in Washington, D.C., on the Bureau of Africa at the United States Agency for International Development. “I draw my interest in refugee issues from the same place as I do homeless issues,” said Kim. “Working with those who struggle for basic needs of shelter, food and basic protection.”
Kim is currently studying to become an Emergency Medical Technician for the Evesham Fire-Rescue Department.
A first-generation Korean American from Marlton, N.J., Kim graduated Phi Beta Kappa in June, with a degree in Political Science. He received a Harry S. Truman scholarship in 2003 to support graduate work leading to career in public service.
Before coming to Chicago, Kim earned a full merit-based Francis Tetrault scholarship with which he attended Deep Springs College, a two-year college and a working ranch in California’s high desert.
Nathan Tarcov, Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College, taught Kim in an individual reading course on Plato and was deeply impressed with Kim’s intelligence, thoughtfulness and skillful ability to disagree. “Andy can disagree with one radically (as he often did with me), while maintaining not mere civility but genuine openness radiated and elicited by his own seriousness about the issues at stake.”
The Rhodes scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic scholarships, was established in the will of British colonial pioneer and statesman Cecil J. Rhodes and was initiated upon his death in 1902.
Rhodes hoped his plan of bringing able students from throughout the world to study at Oxford University would aid in the promotion of international understanding and peace, and the personal and intellectual development of his scholars.
The scholarship provides tuition and a living stipend to 32 Americans for two years of study in any field at Oxford.