University News

Kaplan ’15 tapped for Rhodes Scholarship

Andrew Kaplan ’15 to pursue master’s in comparative social policy at Oxford University

By
Staff Writer
Monday, November 23, 2015

Andrew Kaplan ’15 was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship Sunday, joining 31 other American winners of the prestigious scholarship to pursue graduate study at Oxford University.

Kaplan said he applied to work toward a master’s in comparative social policy with an emphasis on housing. He hopes to study European strategies of increasing affordable housing.

“I want to help create a society where everyone has a real, substantive equality of opportunity and has their needs provided for,” Kaplan said. “I see that manifesting in making sure that people have secure places to live and that people don’t have to worry about their next rent check.”

Kaplan concentrated in political science at Brown and has spent the months since graduation as an Urban Fellow in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, where he has focused on ending veteran homelessness. He applied for but did not receive a Rhodes Scholarship last year.

“Last year when I applied, I hadn’t done work in government, and so I was less certain of where (study at Oxford) would fit into my path,” he said. “But now having experienced the realities of government, I feel so much more prepared to apply what I learn from Rhodes to my work in the future.”

“Doing something like a Rhodes is a wonderful way to deepen your understanding of the U.S.,” said James Morone, director of the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy, who served as Kaplan’s adviser for his senior thesis on homelessness in New York.

“To really understand your own country, you need to understand the theory and practice of your own country and then go abroad to compare it to another,” Morone said.

Kaplan will join a growing cohort of Brunonians at Oxford. Three Brown alums won the scholarship last year, while Brown produced one winner in 2013 and four winners in 2012.

This pattern of consistent success has increased student interest in the scholarship, said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships. A record 62 students applied to be nominated in August, and an internal committeee nominated a record 35 of them to submit formal applications, she said.

“I’ve been at Brown for 11 years. It’s been the most in my time, and I can’t imagine there has ever been more than that number,” Dunleavy said. Of the 35 applicants, 12 advanced to the finalist standing, receiving interviews in eight of the 16 geographic districts recognized by the Rhodes Trust.

“The more success Brown students have had getting interviews, the more the committees see Brown students and are impressed by them,” Dunleavy said. “So then students at Brown look at the fellowships and think, ‘This is something that’s possible for me. This is something that’s possible for my friend.’ So it’s a nice chicken-and-egg problem.”

Dunleavy said that as a result of the uptick in Rhodes applicants from Brown, she was not able to build relationships with every applicant, as she had done in the past. “But I don’t think it had too much of an impact — the applicants are still getting advice from different faculty and from graduate student fellowship advisers,” she said.

The interviews took place over the weekend, and winners were announced immediately afterward.

“I was definitely not expecting my name,” Kaplan said. “All of the other finalists were incredibly talented and incredibly great people, and people I will probably stay in touch with. It was not something I was expecting, and I am definitely in shock.”

As an undergraduate, Kaplan was a national champion on the Brown taekwondo team. He said he wrote his personal statement for the Rhodes Scholarship application on the “black belt mentality” that he gained from taekwondo, noting that he is “infinitely grateful” for his experiences with the team. Cecil John Rhodes, for whom the Rhodes Scholarship is named, identified four standards by which to judge applicants, including “energy to use one’s talents to the fullest, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.”

During his sophomore year, Kaplan also co-founded Common Sense Action, a bipartisan think-tank for millennials.

But it was homelessness that motivated Kaplan’s academic pursuits and that has driven him since graduation. Kaplan “was really arrested by the idea that the problem of homelessness seemed to be getting better nationwide, but in New York it was getting worse,” Morone said. “What I loved about Andrew’s thesis right from the start was his combination of very careful research and real passion about the subject.”

Looking ahead, Kaplan hopes to bring what he learns at Oxford back home to New York — and beyond. “Maybe this is super aspirational, but throughout my career, I would love to see if we can end homelessness in the U.S.”

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