Brooks ’09 named a Rhodes Scholar

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rakim Brooks ’09 will never forget the final interview that determined whether he would be among next year’s 32 Rhodes Scholars.

“The second interview was one of the most grueling experiences of my life,” Brooks said. Brooks entered the circular room where the other District 1 finalists were waiting and was surprised that he had been in the interview for 40 minutes – the longest period out of all the interviews that day.

“At that moment realized I had a better shot than anyone else,” he said.

A committee member entered the waiting area and announced that Brooks and Matthew Gethers III from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were chosen as the two Rhode Scholars for District 1 including Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“We were so in shock,” Brooks said. “Everyone is clapping, and I find that I’m clapping because everyone else is clapping.”

The oldest international fellowships, the Rhodes Scholarships were instituted after the death of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes in 1902. The program is designed to bring some of the most talented international scholars to study at the University of Oxford’s, according to Saturday’s press release.

Brooks said applying to be a Rhodes Scholar involves one of the most rigorous scholarship application processes. Candidates for the scholarship must first be endorsed by their college or university. The Brown endorsement process requires that applicants have eight recommendations, four or five of which have to be academic with the remainder outside of academics, Brooks said.

The scholarship divides the nation into 16 districts, with only two scholars selected from each district. As part of the application process, the candidates have to write a 1,000-word personal essay. Once endorsed by their respective schools, the candidates interview before members of Committee of Selection of their districts.

The Committee of Selection interview process goes for two days. The first day consists of an informal cocktail party and dinner reception. The second day consists of two interviews, a short 20 minute interview and then a longer interview with no set time limit. Each of the district recipients still have to apply to their respective Oxford programs.

Brooks, who is concentrating in Africana studies, is deciding on whether he wants to pursue a Master’s of Philosophy in comparative social policy at Oxford. He said Brown has given him the chance to choose how he should pursue his academic goals and that he was treated as an adult from the moment he arrived on campus.

Brooks said his grandmother – who he called one of the most influential people in his life – explained to him free will, and how God “knows everything by saying he has a time machine.”

“We all have a choice to change each moment,” Brooks said. “My obligation has grown – I’m intimidated as all hell. Now this is a platform for things that I need to do in the world,” Brooks said.