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Nov. 21, 2004 Press Contact: Julia Morse
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Two University of Chicago students win Rhodes Scholarships

Ian Desai

Andrew Kim

More University of Chicago Rhodes Scholars

In the News
“32 U.S. Students Named Rhodes Scholars”

Nov. 21, 2004

“Rhodes Trust names 32 American students to study at Oxford”

Nov. 21, 2004


One student spent a summer working closely with former prostitutes that 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 University of Chicago graduates, Andrew Kim and Ian Desai, have been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship 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 winners to 39.

“We’re very proud of them,” said Susan Art, Dean of Students of the University of Chicago’s undergraduate 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. 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,” he wrote, in his application, “in order to foster social progress in the world.”

A native of New York City, Desai graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Ancient Studies. He was elected a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor that the University gives to undergraduates, and he received the University’s Brooker Prize in Book Collecting for his collection of poetry. He also received honors for an undergraduate thesis that compared the ancient Greek classic, the Illiad, 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 Desai’s Rhodes recommendation.

Another eminent faculty member who taught Desai both in Chicago, and on a study abroad program in Greece, praised his student for not only his intellect, but also 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 James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classical Languages and Literatures, “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, policy to campus, and the Kashmir Project, which hosted conferences on the history and culture of this hotly contested region. A month after completing his degree, Desai co-founded Linking Individuals Through Education (LITE), a Chicago-based non-profit organization, focused on promoting cross-cultural understanding.

ANDREW KIM, 22, hopes to use his Rhodes scholarship to advance his understanding of refugee issues and human rights. Kim, who plans to study international relations at Oxford, hopes to eventually work for the U.S. government or a nonprofit organization that focuses on refugee issues in Africa.

A first-generation Korean-American from Marlton, New Jersey, 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, he attended Deep Springs College, a two-year college in the California’s high desert that is a working ranch, on a Francis Tetrault Scholarhip, a full-merit based scholarship.

Nathan Tarcov, Professor of Political Science and in the Committee of Social Thought, discussed Plato’s Republic with Kim, in a one-on-one reading course, and was deeply impressed with not only Kim's intelligence and thoughtfulness, but his 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.”

Tarcov also noted that Kim was distinctive among students for “the astonishingly wide range of activities that he dedicates himself to, whether it’s playing or composing for the cello, striving to improve the conditions of homeless people and prostitutes, baking bagels, cattle ranching, or academic studies.”

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 an intern for the Coalition for the Homeless, Kim worked closely with women who had experienced prostitution, on the Prostitution Alternatives Round Table, and helped develop a city-wide task force to envision new ways of responding to youth prostitution. Last summer, Kim served as an intern in Washington, 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 did for 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.

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 that his plan of bringing able students from throughout the world to study at Oxford would aid in the promotion of international understanding and peace and the personal and intellectual development of his scholars. The scholarship provides tuition and living stipend to 32 Americans for two years of study in any field at Oxford.
Last modified at 12:13 PM CST on Tuesday, November 23, 2004.

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