Wake Forest University senior Jennifer Harris, who has traveled the world advocating for refugees, has been named a Rhodes Scholar.
Harris, of Lawton, Okla., is one of 32 American women and men chosen as Rhodes Scholars on Nov. 22.
Harris, who was named as one of 76 Truman Scholars in the United States last spring, is the eighth Wake Forest student to win the Rhodes Scholarship since 1986.
She plans to pursue a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford University next fall. At Wake Forest, she is a Graylyn Scholar with a double major in political science and economics. The scholarship is made possible by Wake Forest’s Graylyn International Conference Center.
Since her arrival at Wake Forest, Harris has studied international refugee issues and has dedicated much of her efforts to serving refugees in Latvia, Croatia and Bosnia.
“I’m trying to convince people that international security and human rights, specifically refugee rights, are not mutually exclusive,” said Harris.
In Eastern Europe, Harris explained, she has been researching “how to devise credible asylum programs for refugees in need of protection” while also protecting the interests of the government.
In Croatia and Bosnia, Harris added, she has examined what works and does not work in terms of returning refugees to their homeland in the former Yugoslavia.
In Latvia, she helped officials develop political asylum laws based on the U.S. model of asylum protection.
She presented her research on refugee protection at a meeting in Geneva of the United Nations High Commission for Refugee Relief this summer.
Harris said she is dedicated to the notion that governments cannot tighten asylum and immigration laws without “compromising our human rights obligations.”
In November 2002, Harris was the only undergraduate student to attend the Prague Atlantic Student Summit, an international meeting of students from NATO countries to discuss the future of NATO and the security challenges it faces.
Despite her intensive dedication to Eastern Europe, she has also found energy and time for those in need elsewhere. She coordinated an effort to gather children’s artwork to be used as covers for the aid packages being distributed in Afghanistan in spring 2002. She organized the project in response to confusion caused by bright yellow aid packages’ resemblance to bright yellow explosives. She also traveled twice to Mexico City to work with the Missionaries of Charity in a program organized through Wake Forest’s Volunteer Service Corps.
Harris said she sees the scholarship as the “capstone of four incredible years at Wake Forest.”
Throughout her undergraduate study, Harris said, “Wake Forest has taken my research interests really seriously, and supported me all the way.”
Wake Forest has provided grants from several sources to give Harris the financial support to travel to various countries to conduct her research.
The 32 American Rhodes Scholars will join an international group of Rhodes Scholars chosen from 18 other jurisdictions around the world.
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