Two metro Atlantans named Rhodes Scholars

University students Phaidra Buchanan, Sam Patterson selected for 2021 class

Two university students from metro Atlanta have been selected as Rhodes Scholars for 2021, the Rhodes Trust announced on Saturday.

Phaidra Buchanan, a University of Georgia student from Tyrone, and Samuel E. Patterson III, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County student from Marietta, are among 32 U.S. students named scholars-elect by the selection committee. They will pursue degrees in their chosen fields of study at Oxford University in England beginning in October.

Buchanan is a senior at the University of Georgia, where she is completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. The Tyrone native is planning to pursue a Master of Science degree in comparative and international education.

Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker

Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker

While Buchanan plans a career in education, she played a large role in helping the UGA reckon with the role slavery played in the university’s development and the university’s role in perpetuating the institution of slavery. As a member of UGA’s History of Slavery research team, Buchanan researched the lived experiences of enslaved people connected to the university, the Trust said in a statement.

She told the Rhodes Trust that she wanted to be a teacher “who fosters criticality, compassion and joy,” and who advocates for policies that empower students and communities. At UGA she is a volunteer with U-Lead Athens, a tutor for the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement Tutoring Service and an assistant and panel moderator for the Morehouse College Annual Math Competitions Bootcamp.

“The University of Georgia is very proud of our newest Rhodes Scholar,” said President Jere W. Morehead in a statement. “Phaidra has amassed an impressive record of academic achievement, engagement and leadership already as a UGA student, and we look forward to the positive impact she will continue to make on the world as she pursues her education and career path.”

In a statement provided by UGA, Buchanan said, “I am honored to join a long line of people pushing for equity and justice in education. I aspire to work alongside them to create a system that values and empowers all children to find their place in the world and improve it in their own unique ways. I appreciate the supportive community around me, and I look forward to representing them as I take my place at Oxford.”

Patterson, of Marietta, is a senior at UMBC, completing three bachelor’s degrees — in mathematics, statistics and economics. His work centers on equity in transportation infrastructure as a way to improve economic opportunities in various communities. He plans to pursue a Master of Science in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance. A musician and community music director, Patterson plays upright and electric bass.

“Sam is a deep critical thinker who looks at car culture and considers its effects not only on the environment, but also in how it shapes access to education, work, health care, food and culture,” April Householder, director of prestigious scholarships at UMBC, said in a statement. “He raises questions about how class and race intersect with suburban and city planning to limit people’s lives.”

Patterson extended his research recently at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he evaluated trends in transportation changes in urban centers due to the pandemic.

“I’m so excited to go to the U.K.,” Patterson said in the statement. “I think it will do wonders for my research when I experience the European perspective on public transportation and its place in society and sustainability. There are so many brilliant academics at Oxford that I’m raring to meet. I just feel so fortunate to be where I am and to be going where I’m going.”

According to the Rhodes Trust, 22 of the scholars are students of color; 10 are Black, equal to the greatest number ever elected in one year in the United States. Nine are first-generation Americans or immigrants; and one is a Dreamer with active DACA status. Seventeen of the winners are women, 14 are men, and one is non-binary.

“This year’s American Rhodes Scholars — independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflect the remarkable diversity that characterizes and strengthens the United States,” said Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, in a statement.

The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes. They provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford. They are “the oldest and best-known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates,” Gerson said in the statement.