Convergence Means Success: Recent UA Honors College Graduate Is Named A Rhodes Scholar

Nov. 26, 2018
Leah Crowder in front of Honors College Sign


Leah Crowder, now pursuing an M.A. in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona, emerged as a Rhodes Scholarship winner after a grueling process that culminated in recent interviews in San Francisco. To this Petersburg, Virginia native, confronting challenges is simply part of her identity. So is finding the harmony between scholarship and the gritty realities of those displaced by conflict.

Crowder’s recent summers landed her in Turkey, where the chaos of uprooted families and communities brought context to her rigorous Honors College academics. According to Crowder, “there’s traditionally been little connection between research and grassroots aid work, even though each of them has much to gain from the other.”

According to those who know Crowder, she’s been bridging gaps between groups of people since her earliest days as an undergraduate majoring in Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Comments assistant dean Dr. Karna Walter, “she’s stepped forward on campus to give voice to the voiceless.” Adds advisor David Neufeld, “her ability to connect makes her an effective cross-cultural mediator to bring people together around common purposes.”

One of only 32 recipients in the United States, Crowder’s cohort started with over 2,500 nominees with 880 endorsed by 281 different colleges and universities. Crowder credits the exceptional opportunities and guidance of the Honors College that allowed her to takes courses beyond her major: She recommends other students “make the most of the University of Arizona experience.”

While the Rhodes Scholarship is a powerful and generous award that can flow into continued studies such as the doctorate Crowder is planning, its financial value of up to $250,000 is only one measure. Joining students from more than 60 countries attending Oxford University starting in October 2019, Crowder’s exposure to other points of view will expand exponentially.

“We’ll tackle global issues by first asking compelling questions, then exploring them in small groups,” explained Crowder. Some of them, she anticipates, may result in solutions for the problems of those displaced by conflict. By way of scale, the United Nations Refugee Agency placed the number of internally displaced people at 40 million by the end of 2017. Those who have fled their own countries added over 28 million.

The list of U.S. governmental, organizational and corporate leaders who’ve studied as Rhodes Scholars since 1904 is long and impressive. Does Crowder, a May 2018 Honors College 4.0 GPA graduate see, herself working as a policy maker following the completion of her D. Phil in International Relations? “Post-conflict reconstruction starts at the community level. That’s been my focus and we’ll see where it leads,” she concluded.

"Leah has proven to be an exceptional student during her time at the University of Arizona," said UA Provost Jeff Goldberg. "I have no doubt her passion for education combined with her desire to solve global problems will make a difference in the lives of people around the world."