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UPDATED: November 25, 2015, at 10:44 p.m.
Five Harvard undergraduates are recipients of the 2016 Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, up three from last year when two Harvard students won the prestigious award, the Rhodes Trust announced on Saturday.
The winners—Grace E. Huckins, Garrett M. Lam, Neil M. Alacha, Rivka B. Hyland, and Hassaan Shahawy, all members of the class of 2016—said Sunday that they greeted the news with a mix of elation and shock. And according to Shahawy, the finalists in his district were all together in one room when they found out that they had received the Rhodes—or if they hadn’t.
“We were in the L.A. Public Library, talking and playing card games for three hours,” he said. “And then [an interviewer] came out, called us into the room—we were standing in a circle and they announced to us the names of the winners.”
For her part, Hyland, who lives in Lowell House, said the anxious hours that separated the interview and the announcement of results were positive.
“We had conversations in which I changed my mind about things and developed new ideas and saw them doing the same,” she said. “There’s never going to be another experience like that.”
Two of the winners, Huckins and Lam, are Crimson editors, and both study Neurobiology as part of joint concentrations. Hyland and Shahawy both study Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Alacha is a Social Studies concentrator.
Alacha and Lam both said they had researched extensively while at Harvard, experiences they said were helpful to them while applying for the Rhodes and other fellowships.
The Rhodes, which covers the cost of attending the University of Oxford for two or three academic years, is granted to students who demonstrate “high academic achievement, personal integrity, and leadership potential, among other attributes,” according to the scholarship’s website.
For Huckins, who is chair of The Crimson’s Arts board, word of her selection caused “utter disbelief.” She said she “scarcely believed it was real—it still hasn’t set in.”
“Now that I don’t have to worry about graduate school, I will be focusing on my thesis and try as much as I can to enjoy my last several months here,” Huckins said. “I’ve worked pretty hard while at Harvard, so my time here has gone by incredibly quickly.”
Shahawy, a resident of Mather House, similarly said his reaction included an element of disbelief. He also felt somewhat guilty for his good fortune.
“I felt happy, but then this impending sense of responsibility,” he said. “This is something I was hoping so strongly for, but there are other many people who lack the basic necessities: food, water, finding somewhere to sleep, finding somewhere safe.”
Harvard seniors make up five of the 32 Americans chosen as the newest Rhodes Scholars, the largest number from any one institution. Princeton has four Rhodes Scholars, followed by Yale, which has three.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: November 25, 2015
An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation from Grace E. Huckins to Rivka B. Hyland.
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