Two University of Toronto (U of T) graduates from the Caribbean have been named 2014 Rhodes Scholars to pursue studies at Oxford University next year.
Aliyyah Ahad and Chloe Walker attended the U of T’s Innis College are from Bermuda and Barbados respectively. The Rhodes Scholarships are among the world’s most prestigious postgraduate awards, with only 83 students from universities around the world chosen each year. The scholarships support outstanding all-round students at Oxford as they develop into exceptional leaders who are motivated to fight for “the world’s fight” and hold public duties in the highest regard, all while promoting international understanding and peace.
“Winning the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the greatest honours that I have ever received,” Aliyyah Ahad said. “I care so deeply about making a positive contribution to not only my home country of Bermuda but also to the world more broadly.” “To be honest, the reality of winning the Rhodes scholarship still hasn’t quite sunken in yet,” Chloe Walker said. “To work so feverishly toward a goal and have it realized, exactly as I planned, is a little overwhelming. Needless to say, I’m excited, I’m extremely proud and I’m grateful,” she told a UFT staff writer.
The university’s President Meric Gertler congratulated the duo. “Their multifaceted leadership and excellence are an inspiration to all of us, reflecting the highest ideals of the University of Toronto.”
Ahad, who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of arts in political science and sociology, was the only recipient to be named from Bermuda. She has been working at the Bermuda Government Cabinet Office since her studies at U of T – first, in a year-long internship and then as a consultant for the Human Rights Commission – and is now in the Office of the Ombudsman.
She is on the board of Bermuda’s Emerging Professionals, the youth division of the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes events for young professionals focusing on their development. A skilled debater, she has represented Bermuda at international tournaments and is on the board of the Bermuda Debate Society.
“My education at U of T played a vital role in equipping me with the critical thinking needed to succeed in the real world,” Ahad said, adding her experiences outside the classroom also had a big impact.
“The wide range of opportunities to get involved and to take leadership positions is unparalleled,” said Ahad. “Further, its location in the freezing yet welcoming multicultural city of Toronto makes U of T an absolute gem of higher learning..”
Walker, the only Rhodes Scholar selected from Barbados, also graduated from U of T in 2012, with a bachelor of arts in literary studies and African studies. During her time at U of T she was president of the U of T Swahili Conversation Club and an active volunteer, activities Walker credits with helping her develop “leadership and civic skills” sought by the Rhodes program. Now pursuing a master’s of philosophy in literatures in English at the University of West Indies, Walker is also serving as a member of their vice-chancellor’s ambassador corps, teaching English, coaching the debating club at her former high school and volunteering for Read for Life.
“My time at U of T definitely contributed significantly to being awarded the scholarship,” Walker said. “Both my majors were very demanding (particularly with regard to time constraints). Consequently, by the end of my tenure, I had honed several important academic skills, namely; research, time management, writing, presentation, working with others, and public speaking. “Apart from academics, my confidence improved tremendously, and I was literally exposed to a whole new world and way of being. This gave me a new philosophy in life, which directly impacted my decision to apply for the scholarship.” Walker added.
The recipient of the University of the West Indies Graduate Scholarship, the Innis College Exceptional Achievement Award and the CAPE Award for Top Performance in Humanities, Walker serves as a supervisor for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. She is also a founding member of global youth network AIESEC’s Barbados chapter, a student-run not-for-profit organization focused on world issues, leadership and management.