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Earlham College Student Is Her Country's First Rhodes Scholar

Summia Tora is Afghanistan's first, and Earlham's first woman, to earn a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Summia Tora is Afghanistan's first, and Earlham's first woman, to earn a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, may only have about 1,000 students, but it's making waves internationally. Senior Summia Tora is a newly announced Rhodes Scholar, making her the second Earlham student to earn the honor in three years.

Tora also becomes the first woman from Earlham College and the first student from Afghanistan to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.

"As soon as I learned that I was selected for this award, I messaged all of my professors and family because I truly believe that this has not just been awarded to me, but it's been awarded to everyone who has supported me," Tora says. "I don't think I would have been able to do it if I didn't get all of the support from my professors and my peers."

Tora, a double major in economics and peace and global studies, plans to pursue two masters degrees in refugee studies, forced migration studies and social entrepreneurship during her time at England's University of Oxford. She says she wants to focus on displaced peoples in Afghanistan and refugees in Pakistan and other parts of the world.

"I have been awarded a scholarship that is a reminder not only of this world's colonial past but also the social injustices," Tora says in a statement. "My hope is to use the education I gain at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to address such issues in our present world. I want to work with people on the ground and mobilize social movements by taking a grassroots approach and addressing real issues within communities, working side-by-side with people and making them actual contributors in society that take positions and make a difference."

Tora is from Afghanistan but grew up as a refugee in Pakistan. Her mother and siblings still live there but her father had to return to Afghanistan to find work. She was able to attend a boarding school in New Mexico and says destiny is what brought her to Earlham College.

After applying to and being turned down by 10 universities, she turned to Earlham last-minute where she accepted a full scholarship. She went on to become student body co-president during 2018-2019, and is now a Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship covers up to three years of graduate-level coursework. They're described as "the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world."

Only about 100 Rhodes Scholars are named each year from around the world. Four Earlham College students have earned Rhodes Scholarships since the school's inception in 1847, and two others narrowly missed out. The small institution founded on Quaker ideals credits that success to its "Peace & Global Studies program and our institution's Quaker background and broader commitment to peace and justice in the world."

Hashem Abu Sham'a, who graduated in 2017, was one of the first two people from Palestine to receive a Rhodes Scholarship as part of the inaugural Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine program, Earlham reports. The other two previous awardees were George E. Hamilton, Class of 1905 - just one year after the first-ever U.S. Rhodes Scholars were created, and Joseph Clyde Little, Class of 1917.

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