A Penn student and recent graduate were selected as two of this year's 100 recipients of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, bringing Penn's total number of Rhodes Scholars to 30.
College senior Nurul Ezzaty Binti Hasbullah will receive the Malaysian Rhodes Scholarship, and 2019 College graduate Stephen Damianos, former Daily Pennsylvanian staffer, will be one of 32 American Rhodes Scholars. The prestigious scholarships fund up to four years of graduate study at Oxford.
Binti Hasbullah, who hails from Selangor, Malaysia, is majoring in health and societies with a concentration in global health and minoring in anthropology at Penn. She plans to pursue master's degrees in social data science and public policy at Oxford.
Binti Hasbullah said she wants to take what she learns at Oxford back to Malaysia to eliminate the "gender data gap" in her home country, citing the current lack of data regarding school dropouts because of menstruation.
“When I came from a science background, I always felt like data was objective," she said. "During my time as an undergraduate volunteering around the world, I’ve seen this discrepancy and gap. Data is not really objective. It’s not black and white."
With her degree in public policy, Binti Hasbullah said she plans to increase representation in politics for young people and women in Malaysia.
In the past year, Binti Hasbullah has engaged in various service projects, including volunteering with refugees in Guatemala and Poland. For her contributions to community service, Binti Hasbullah was awarded Penn Alumni's Association of Alumnae Rosemary D. Mazzatenta Scholars Award. At Penn, she serves on the Muslim Students Association board, the Dining Advisory Board, and the Rodin College House community service programming team as a co-chair.
Binti Hasbullah said she was first inspired to apply for the Malaysian Rhodes Scholarship when she saw 2018 College and Wharton graduate Adnan Zikri Jaafar win one himself.
“I’m super grateful and I’m still processing a lot of it," she said about hearing the news for the first time.
Damianos, who comes from North Hampton, N.H., graduated from Penn with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing development studies at the University of Cambridge. He said he aims to pursue a doctorate in migration studies at Oxford and attend law school so he can advocate for the rights of refugees within current legal systems.
“The refugee study center at Oxford – the only of its kind there in the world – and the scholars there have deeply influenced my academic research and works," Damianos said.
At Penn, Damianos founded Penn Undergraduates for Refugee Empowerment, which provides translation and tutoring services for refugees. He also volunteered with refugees in Greece, Philadelphia, New York, and Cambridge.
Damianos said his experiences working with refugees motivated him to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship.
“The desire to apply came directly from the fact that these incredible and inspiring and deeply resilient people would come to me looking for support and asking questions I did not have the answers to," Damianos said. In 2018, Damianos received the Truman Scholarship, which awards recipients with $30,000 to pursue graduate studies relating to public service.