Newly named Rhodes scholar Austin Hughes, a University of Iowa senior from Arlington, Texas, is ready to represent his two home states on the international level.
“Honestly, that is the part I’m most psyched about,” says Hughes. “I think both of those places—Texas and Iowa—have shaped who I am.”
Hughes was selected as one of 32 American Rhodes scholars on Nov. 17 out of 880 applicants representing 281 American colleges and universities. The American scholars will join scholars from more than 60 countries around the world. Hughes and his fellow Rhodes scholars each will receive about $70,000 a year to study at Oxford University in England beginning in October 2019.
UI senior Melissa Lauer, an honors student from Des Moines, Iowa, majoring in English and creative writing as well as studio arts, was a Rhodes scholarship finalist.
At UI, Hughes is pursuing majors in English and creative writing, and Japanese language and literature. He is a member of the UI Honors Program, co-president of the English Society, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Tau Delta and the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including the Beinecke Scholarship, a highly selective fellowship offered to students to pursue advanced degrees in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
Hughes is the 21st UI student awarded a Rhodes scholarship since 1905. The university’s most recent Rhodes scholar was Jeffrey Ding, in 2015.
At Oxford, Hughes will study pre-modern Japanese literature and representation of Japanese culture in English literature over the same historical period. He ultimately hopes to become a professor in comparative literature, Japanese or English, as well as a writer.
“I want to write poems for a global audience and try to find a way to integrate the humanities in a way that goes beyond academia and gets more people excited about the things I’m excited about,” he says. “I want to be an educator and a connector.”
Kelly Thornburg, director of scholar development at the UI Honors Program, describes Hughes and Lauer as dedicated and talented students.
“Both Austin and Melissa have earned the trust of their peers and mentors,” Thornburg says. “This makes it easier for them to trust themselves and for organizations like the Rhodes Trust to invest in them.”
UI President J. Bruce Harreld says having two UI students as finalists for the scholarship is prestigious for the institution.
“Congratulations to both Melissa and Austin," Harreld says. "We are extremely proud of their accomplishments and the honor they have brought to the University of Iowa."
Hughes credits Thornburg with guiding him through the Rhodes scholarship process. He also was aided by Blaine Greteman, associate professor of English and a Rhodes scholar in 1998.
Greteman describes Hughes as “charismatic, creative, and endlessly curious.” Greteman says Hughes began to stand out two years ago as a student who could be a Rhodes scholarship candidate.
Hughes’s selection proves that UI students are among the best in the United States, Greteman says.
“When a student like Austin wins the Rhodes, it shows that Iowa can prepare students to stand tall alongside their peers from Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton,” Greteman says.
Being named a Rhodes scholar will open up a world of opportunities for Hughes, Greteman says.
“It challenges you to connect your studies to the greater good and immerses you in a community of other scholars who have accepted that challenge,” he says. “Rhodes Scholars tend to be ambitious, inquisitive, and wildly optimistic. It’s infectious.”
University of Iowa Rhodes scholars
Austin Hughes, 2019; Jeffrey Ding, 2016; Renugan Raidoo, 2011; Ali Junaid Husain, 1994; Andrew Patrick Wildenberg, 1993; Jeffrey McKinney, 1985; Margaret Olivia Little, 1983; Michael Alan Shea, 1968; Michael Murray Martin, 1966; Mark Elwood Schantz, 1963; Melvin Lawrence Popofsky, 1958; Rex Lindsay Jamison, 1955; Thomas Andrew Brown, 1953; Robert Earl Shepherd, 1951; Edward Charles Freutel, 1939; Charles Gordon Siefkin, 1930; Carl Walther Strom, 1924; Charles Caldwell Bowie, 1922; Willis Nutting, 1921; Virgil Hancher, 1918; Jacob Van der Zee, 1905