Sarah Chen ’22 is honored as Rhodes Scholar

Sarah Chen '22 in front of the Kravis Center.

For the third time in Claremont McKenna College’s history, a CMC senior has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, the most competitive and prestigious scholarship in the world.

Sarah Chen '22, a dual major in philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) and international relations, is Claremont McKenna’s first female Rhodes Scholar and the first from the College in 28 years. She is studying the emerging discipline of strategic wargaming, specifically, how to build better wargames meant for educating policy decision makers and surveying the public on technology and cyberspace issues.

Chen, who is from Anchorage, Alaska, will head to the University of Oxford in England to begin her graduate studies in October. She plans to read for the MSc in Social Science of the Internet, followed by the MSc in Social Data Science, both with the Oxford Internet Institute “to continue developing my research design and social data science skills,” she said.

Each year, the Rhodes Trust selects 32 Americans and dozens of others from around the globe for graduate study at the University of Oxford. More than 2,300 students applied this year for the coveted scholarship.

Chen is the only student from a college or university in Southern California—and one of three in California, with the other two from Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

“It felt unreal,” Chen recalled about learning of the Rhodes honor on Saturday night, as the congratulatory messages were pouring in. “Now it’s just starting to feel real, and I am incredibly excited!”

While the Rhodes application process was daunting, Chen felt prepared. “CMC is so friendly and collaborative, and I relied on that dynamic in my interviews with the Rhodes Selection Committee. In addition, being at CMC provided me with the ability to pursue what I’m interested in, develop my research skills, and receive institutional support,” she said. “I wouldn’t have discovered that interest if I hadn’t come to CMC.”

Sarah Chen '22 sits with President Chodosh in front of the Kravis Center.

“The entire CMC community is thrilled with Sarah becoming a Rhodes Scholar. She is an exemplary representative of our outstanding students. We are so proud of her,” said CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh. “Sarah applies her intellectual brilliance through a profound commitment to improve the human condition. She has achieved distinction in everything she does and will take the fullest advantage of the opportunities at Oxford.”

While at Claremont McKenna, Chen has served as president of the International Relations Society, co-lead of the Asian Pacific American Student Association, founding development member of the Women in Wargaming network, a First-Year Guide, and a fellow with the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies and Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies.

For her study of strategic wargaming, Chen has worked with an array of entities including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department's Global Engagement Center, and the Army Cyber Command to design simulations to predict the future of cyberwarfare.

Chen thanked her family; her CMC fellowship advisor, Brian Davidson '08; and CMC professor Jennifer Taw for their “unbelievable” support. “Professor Taw has believed in me since the first class I took with her during my first year here,” Chen said.

“I have had many extraordinary students. Sarah is among the best, especially in her particular wheelhouse at the intersection of policy, defense, and technology,” said Taw, an associate professor of government and international relations.

“Sarah’s focus on defense and technology is influenced by her misgivings about women’s under-representation across both fields, her interest in identifying the mechanisms that can prevent war and its escalation, and her concerns about the use of technology to abuse citizens.”

Taw noted that Chen “brings energy, perspicacity, and attention to how ethical and practical considerations affect decisions to everything she does.” Davidson added that the Rhodes application further allowed Chen to do “quite a bit of introspection about her future plans and the forces that helped shape her today.”

From left to right: Brian Davidson '08, Sarah Chen '22, and President Chodosh stand arm in arm in front of the Kravis Center.
Rhodes Scholar Sarah Chen ’22 (center) with CMC President Hiram Chodosh (right) and Brian Davidson '08, CMC’s Director of Fellowships Advising (left)

“I first met Sarah two years ago, when she came to my office to ask about opportunities to study disinformation and cyberwarfare in an international context. Throughout that time, I've had the opportunity to work with her on a number of competitive fellowship applications, and so I've seen firsthand her phenomenal work ethic, her ethical sensibility, and her quirky sense of humor,” Davidson said.

“It has truly been a pleasure to work with Sarah, and she richly deserves this honor.”

The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded across four main criteria: academic excellence; energy to use talents to the full (as demonstrated by mastery in various areas); truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness, and fellowship; and moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in their fellow human beings.

CMC's last Rhodes Scholar was Ryan Iwasaka '94. The first was Paul Schulz '85.

To read the full list of Class of 2022 winners, visit the Rhodes Trust website.

Anne Bergman


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