Bard College Students Win Rhodes Scholarships

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON – Two Bard College students have won Rhodes Scholarships for 2023, Sonita Alizada ’23 from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and Nawara Alaboud ’23 from Bard College Berlin. One of the most prestigious scholarships available to undergraduates, the Rhodes is a fully funded award for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford. Alizada, originally from Afghanistan, is one of only two applicants to have been awarded a Global Rhodes Scholarship, available to students from nations that are not members of established Rhodes constituencies. She joins Ronan Farrow ’04 as the second Rhodes winner from Bard College in Annandale, and she distinguishes herself as the first Bard student to receive the scholarship while still an undergraduate.

Alaboud, originally from Syria, is the first Bard College Berlin student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. She was awarded one of two Rhodes Scholarships in partnership with the Saïd Foundation for students from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine.

“We are extremely proud that two Bard students have received prestigious Rhodes scholarships this year. That one student is from Afghanistan and another from Syria speaks volumes about Bard’s commitment to education and social justice,” said Bard Executive Vice President Jonathan Becker.

Sonita Alizada is internationally recognized as a rapper and human rights advocate. She has spoken and performed at United Nations events, urging an end to child marriage and standing up for the rights of women and girls, especially in her home country. At Bard, Alizada is nearing completion of a degree in human rights and music and is an active participant in civic engagement efforts in and around the campus community. As a Rhodes scholar, Alizada will continue her work by pursuing graduate study in public policy at Oxford. “I want to make real change,” she says, “and that comes from changing the laws. Now it’s time for me to really take action by working with policymakers.”

Alizada points out that applying for a Rhodes Scholarship is a group effort that requires close collaboration with campus mentors. “Bard has always been there for me, especially with the Rhodes Scholarship,” she says. “The faculty invested so much in me and the goals I have. I want to especially thank Molly Freitas [associate dean of studies]. Molly was so supportive in the application process.”

“Sonita is a star and a natural leader. Given her talents and intellect, it was an absolute pleasure to work with her on her Rhodes journey,” says Freitas. “The Rhodes is an exciting and fitting accomplishment for someone of her talents, and I have no doubt it will accelerate her ability to enact positive change in our world. She has already changed Bard with her dynamism and I have no doubt she will do the same at Oxford. At Bard, we couldn’t be prouder of her!”

“You never know how much is in your ability/power until you really try, so believe in yourself and the world full of opportunities waiting for you!” —Sonita Alizada ’23

Alizada urges young people to challenge themselves and apply their own vision to the world’s problems. “This is very important, not only for Rhodes but for everything you’re trying to do to make the world a livable place for everyone.” She encourages Bard students to explore fellowships and scholarships. “The whole application process for Rhodes was so exciting,” she observes. While applying, Alizada said questions arose that required deep reflection and consideration of her responses. “It helped me get to know myself and my mission even more. If you apply, you will have more courage to compete or take action in order to achieve your dream. I encourage everyone to take big steps. There’s nothing lost in applying because of how much you will learn in the process.”

As she looks toward graduation in May and beginning her studies at Oxford, Alizada is more committed than ever to public service. “Bard has provided me with incredible opportunities. I’m hoping that I carry on what I have achieved here. With the experience at Oxford, I hope to become a better leader so I can give it back to people who need it.”

Nawara Alaboud is studying for a BA in Humanities, the Arts, and Social Thought (concentration in ethics and politics) at Bard College Berlin through PIESC, a scholarship program for students from regions of conflict and crisis.

Intrigued by the interconnectedness of historical and political scenarios across the globe, Alaboud aspires to pursue future research in comparative political science. In particular, she is interested in the processes of war termination, peacebuilding, and democratization and their interactions in post–civil war countries, especially in the Middle East region.

Currently, Alaboud is working on her bachelor’s thesis, which attempts to trace the effects of peace agreements on the success of democratic transitions. At Oxford, she hopes to pursue an MPhil in politics (comparative government). Before moving to Germany, Alaboud lived and studied in Syria, India, and, most recently, France, where she pursued an Erasmus exchange program at Sciences Po.

Alaboud says, “The prospect of joining the wide community of previous Rhodes scholars, and the chance to join the outstanding academic community at Oxford, is incredibly exciting. It is not lost upon me what a rare privilege this is; so many gifted young Syrians deserve such an opportunity but are hindered from receiving it by the severest of circumstances. I hope to be able to make the most of my time at Oxford and to contribute something of value to the field of post-conflict studies, especially for the people who suffer the consequences of war everywhere. This would have never been possible without the help and support of so many incredible people, especially to my ever-so-generous professors and academic adviser.”

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