Emory, Georgia Tech students selected as Rhodes scholars

Honor recognizes academics and excelling outside classroom

Two students at Georgia universities have been selected for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, the Rhodes Trust announced this weekend.

An Emory University student from Lithonia was selected, the university announced Saturday evening.

Chelsea Jackson, a double-major in political science and African-American studies, will study at the University of Oxford in England. She is the fourth woman and first African-American student from Emory College to receive the scholarship.

Jackson plans to earn a master’s degree in criminology at Oxford. She hopes to examine potential criminal justice reforms that may reduce the use of solitary confinement and expand the maternal rights of incarcerated women.

“I want to learn how race and politics play out in other countries’ criminal justice systems to see how that shapes their world view, and to consider new ideas and ways to solve problems that I have not thought of yet,” Jackson said in a news release.

Jackson has been heavily involved in Emory’s NAACP chapter. She also co-founded Atlanta Black Students United, a support system for students and resource for allies.

Jackson hopes to become a civil rights attorney, either with the U.S. Justice Department or a non-profit organization focused on social justice.

Calvin Runnels, a senior at the Georgia Institute of Technology from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is the state’s other recipient, the Rhodes Trust announced.

Runnels is pursuing  a degree in biochemistry and maintains a 4.0 GPA. Runnels’ research advances protein crystallographic techniques and investigates origins of the ribosome, which may provide insight into the origins of life. A passionate educator, Runnels is dedicated to “helping others find the joy and satisfaction in learning I have,” he said in a news release.

At Georgia Tech, Runnels has been recognized as the highest-rated teaching assistant for his work in undergraduate mathematics. An effective activist, Runnels has organized rallies in solidarity with the immigrant community and has led efforts to increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Runnels was also appointed by the president of Georgia Tech to co-chair the university’s LGBT+ Action Committee. Runnels, a transgender male, follows Pema McLaughlin, the first self-acknowledged transgender American Rhodes scholar (elected in 2016). At Oxford, Calvin will read for a doctorate in biochemistry.

The Rhodes Scholarship is considered one of the most prestigious academic awards in the world.

Prominent Rhodes scholars include former President Bill Clinton, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and Agnes Scott College president Elizabeth Kiss.