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2024 Rhodes Scholars announced

08 November 2023 | news

Exceptional young leaders in public policy and visual art awarded Rhodes Scholarships

Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international scholarship programme, bringing outstanding young people together from around the world to study at the University of Oxford.

The selection panel, which in New Zealand is chaired by Governor-General Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, seeks young people with proven academic excellence who also show exceptional character, leadership, and commitment to solving humanity’s challenges.

Isaac Heron, aged 23 from Wellington, recently completed a BSc in Economics and Genetics at the University of Otago where he will also soon complete a Bachelor of Laws (Hons). At the University of Oxford, he will study a Master of Philosophy in Economics.

Honed through his studies to date, Isaac’s career aims are to address the existential risks from emerging technologies such as synthetic biology and artificial intelligence by working in science and technology policy, particularly biotechnology.

Isaac has consistently ranked in the top 1% in all courses he’s studied and has been awarded numerous prizes and scholarships including the Erkin Bairam Memorial Prize awarded to the top male student in 300-level Economics (2022), and the Louis Olive Memorial Prize for the most outstanding student in Second Year Law (2019).

Isaac’s referees all comment that it is not simply his exceptional academic record that make him an ideal Rhodes Scholar, with one noting, “Isaac possesses a rare combination of intellectual brilliance, outstanding academic achievements, and exemplary personal qualities.”

In his community, Isaac has made an indelible impact as a member of the National Youth Council for the Voice of the Young and Care Experienced Whakarongo Mai (VWM), where he volunteers his time to advocate for improvements in the foster care system.

This work is personally important to him. “I experienced substantial instability moving between multiple homes while in foster care, but once I had more stability, I was able to slowly grow my confidence and become willing to take more risks. This was one of the things that contributed to the capabilities I have today. Further, once I saw how negative the experiences of many in care were compared to mine, I aimed to use my abilities to help improve our care system.”

Isaac plans to continue his good work improving foster care systems as a volunteer and is looking forward to meeting inspirational people while at Oxford and making the most of the challenges and opportunities available to him.

Karan Kalsi, aged 24 from Auckland, will undertake a Master of Science in Comparative Social Policy and a Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford. He is currently at the University of Auckland completing a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) with minors in Politics and International Relations, and French.

Amongst his list of academic achievements is a University of Auckland Top Achievers Scholarship, being named on the Deans Honours List, and the Desmond Lewis Memorial Prize for top undergraduate student in International Law. Karan is in the top 1-3% of students of the courses he has studied. His referees describe him as “head and shoulders above his peers”, and as a student who has brought “kindness, compassion, curiosity and humility to his learning.”

Growing up in Auckland, Karan’s positive experiences of the social institutions that supported him during his youth have steered him towards work in public policy and advocating for people who are struggling.

“Thirteen years of learning in public school institutions built my egalitarian social mores through illustrating the importance of giving every child a fair go.”

The MSc in Comparative Social Policy and the MPP at Oxford offer courses which align with Karan’s interests.

“Many of humanity’s pressing challenges stem from an erosion in the quality of our public institutions. I intend to play a part in reversing this threat at home and abroad through leading evidence-based policy reform that strengthens institutions’ ability to serve the public good.”

Frances Wright, aged 23 from Wellington, is currently completing a conjoint Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and plans to study a Masters in History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Oxford.

Described by mentors as a “highly ambitious, technically adept, deep-thinking creative” with “proven leadership abilities and depth of character”, Frances is looking forward to the challenges of the Oxford curriculum.

“In postgraduate study at Oxford, I intend to invest in and expand criticality of my work in an international setting as I learn to further analyse and synthesise the complexity of contemporary visual culture.”

After oscillating between whether to pursue the sciences or creative arts as an undergraduate, Frances settled on the latter.

“I have always lived in a thick and weighty world: this is my reality as an artist. I tried to ignore it for some time, opting for paths in science and business. While my head guaranteed success down these roads, my heart was wandering by the wayside. Often, our loved ones see us clearer than we do ourselves, so when art practice became my focus, close voices began to whisper yes, Frances, finally—home.”

Frances’ stellar academic record of achievement has been augmented by her involvement in a number of volunteering and leadership roles in broadcasting and visual arts. She is host and founder of ‘Various Artists’ on campus radio 95bFM, has hosted and produced ‘The Wire’, and been a journalist for various current affairs segments.

Borne from a desire to re-invigorate the school learning environment at the Elam School of Fine Arts after the effects of successive Covid lockdowns, Frances also established and is president of the Fine Arts Students’ Association.

Dame Cindy congratulated the winners saying, “Isaac, Karan, and Frances' academic achievements and service to their communities have already made a deep impact on the lives of many people. I have no doubt these three extraordinary young New Zealanders will continue to make significant contributions as future leaders of our country.”

In New Zealand, the Rhodes application and selection process are administered by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara along with more than 35 other scholarships and fellowships.

Applications for 2025 close on 1 August 2024. More information is available on the scholarship’s page on the Universities New Zealand website.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Communications Manager Therese Lloyd, +64 27 636 5050.