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From Englewood to Rhodes Scholar: ‘It’s huge’


Rhiana Gunn-Wright

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Updated: December 20, 2012 6:27AM

Rhiana Gunn-Wright grew up in Englewood and has focused her studies on some of the issues that plague that community.

“Seeing the poverty and the violence in my community and the way that really disrupted and limited peoples lives and sort of ravaged people’s opportunities,” the 23-year-old said shaped her studies. I knew “people in my community and how wonderful and smart and loving they were.”

Gunn-Wright, whose family now lives in Oak Lawn, is one of 32 people chosen for the latest class of American Rhodes Scholars. They will study at the University of Oxford in England. A Winnetka native, Benjamin B.H. Wilcox, is also among the class.

“It’s huge,” Gunn-Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times. Her mom, who raised her as a single mother, threw a surprise party for her to celebrate the honor.

Gunn-Wright graduated from Yale University in 2011 with magna cum laude honors. She majored in African-American studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies. In 2007, she graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora. Gunn-Wright works at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Her interests focus on the complex causes of inequality, poverty and disadvantage. She researches poverty’s effects on access to a college education and hopes to one day help reform social welfare policy.

The other local resident in the new class of Rhodes Scholars, Wilcox, is a senior at Harvard University majoring in history with a minor in economics. He has logged 10,000 miles on cycling trips across North America and Europe.

Gunn-Wright will head to Oxford next fall to study comparative social policy. Wilcox plans to pursue Latin American studies at Oxford, according to the Rhodes website.

Contributing: Jon Seidel, AP

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