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Congratulations to Nancy Ko '17 for Rhodes Scholarship award

December 2, 2016
in Harvard Gazette

Next year, they’ll begin tracking the history of Jewish minorities in the Muslim world, trying to improve how doctors and patients communicate, exploring how computer science can aid genetics research, and mining European history from 1500 to today.

The interests of Harvard’s four newest Rhodes Scholars are diverse, but they are all looking forward to diving deep into their studies at the University of Oxford over the next two years.

The four, Spencer Dunleavy ’17, Nancy Ko ’17, Maia Silber ’17, and Anthony Wilder Wohns ’16, were among the 32 American students named as Rhodes recipients on Sunday. Considered the most prestigious academic awards in the world, the scholarships cover the full cost of two or three years’ study at Oxford. Including this year’s winners, Harvard has produced 359 Rhodes Scholars.

The Gazette interviewed all four to find out how they plan to spend their Oxford years:

Nancy Ko: “The world has always been paradoxical”

To Nancy Ko, history means more than studying the past. It’s a tool that can be used to fight bigotry.

“I truly believe studying history has the potential to unfix our notions of the present and expand ideas of what can be made possible,” she explains. “Especially now, when we’re seeing the politics of despair everywhere in the world, I hope to show through my research that the world has always been paradoxical and complicated, and that it is possible to build bridges.”

Ko, a resident of Kirkland House and a joint concentrator in history and Near Eastern languages and civilizations, will focus on Jewish history and modern Middle Eastern studies.

“As a Korean-American, there’s always this question of why you, why Jewish studies?” Ko said. “But growing up in one of the only Asian families in a predominantly Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood helped me identify with Jewish culture because, in that tradition, there is an awareness of what it is like to be the ‘other." (Photo: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Gazette)