Ithaca, N.Y. — Cornell senior Rachel Harmon was named Sunday one of the 32 Americans to win a Rhodes Scholarship this year.

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The scholarships pay all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, according to the Chicago Tribune. Harmon, from Illinois, is a student in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

In 2012, two Cornellians were named Rhodes scholars: Christopher “Kit” Dobyns, an Africana studies major with minors in inequality studies and law and society; and Daniel Young, a philosophy major minoring in South Asian studies.

Here’s what the Office of the American Secretary had to say about Harmon:

Rachel V. Harmon, Champaign, is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations. Before college, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer as a reading tutor at an all-black rural elementary school in the Mississippi Delta, an experience which—like some of her own—has fueled her motivation to study social and economic policies and their effects on socioeconomic mobility.

Rachel Harmon

Rachel’s honors thesis relates to strategies for economic justice for low-income Mississippians. She has won many awards for scholarship, was an intern for the Southern Education Foundation, a teacher in a maximum security prison and in a juvenile detention center, and manages a café. At Oxford, Rachel plans to do the M.Phil. in Evidence Based Social Policy.

Harmon wrote about herself for a post on Cornell’s website:

As a Hunter Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar, I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to connect with ILR faculty, even as a freshman. Last year, I received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholarship, which is also research focused.

Before coming to Cornell, I took a gap year. I lived in the Mississippi Delta and was a reading tutor in an elementary school, which was another incredible experience, super eye opening. I came to Cornell passionate about the Mississippi Delta and a lot of the issues prevalent there—particularly educational and economic inequality. In the spring of my freshman year, with Professor Salvatore, I started exploring the history of social protest in the Mississippi Delta. The course Southern Labor History gave me a structural context for that analysis. I’m very interested in the South, and in efforts for social change there and how they fit into a broader framework of inequality—really persistent inequality. That’s one line of research I have done.

My second line of research started in the summer between my sophomore and junior years, when I did a project exploring the impact of incarceration rates on economic inequality. That opened up a new realm of research for me, which is looking at the socioeconomic context of incarceration—the way disadvantage feeds into incarceration and how incarceration exacerbates that disadvantage.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.