What does becoming a Rhodes Scholar mean to you?
Dixon: At the heart of it is, how will I use this exceptional opportunity to give back to the community that raised me up? Whether it be the people in Philadelphia, who supported me through my K-12 education, or the people at NYU, who constantly believed in me, who chose me and gave me the support to achieve something like this. How will I use this opportunity to support individuals who don't have this opportunity?
Nieves Brown: I have sort of a larger goal, which is to be part of Puerto Rico’s process of working towards self determination. Over time, Rhodes kind of revealed itself as an opportunity to engage with people who work in a lot of different fields and—with Puerto Rico’s deep colonial history— there's a long line of people who are doing the work to process and facilitate that reckoning. I'm hoping to join that body of people.
How did you get here? What helped you on your way to securing this opportunity?
Dixon: I came to NYU deep in imposter syndrome and not really knowing what my place at the school would be. But, my time as an AnBryce Scholar and having that community of first generation students from low income backgrounds really helped me to verify that I do have a place on this campus. Also, Bethany Godsoe, the director of the program and senior associate vice president of student affairs, has always been someone to show a genuine compassion for the students that she interacts with.
My last semester at NYU, one of my professors recommended me to the Application Development Cohort. And she had listed that I would be a good contender for their Rhodes or Marshall scholarship. I started to look more into studying abroad, because that's something that I unfortunately couldn't do during my undergraduate time. And that really led me to just throw my hat in the ring.
Nieves Brown: I think moving from place to place within NYU Abu Dhabi allowed me to interact with people my age who are also thinking about justice. Being in a sort of moving, rotating academic program gave me the ability to build really deep relationships with people and realize that my plight is deeply connected and fundamentally connected to the plights of other people.
What do you plan to accomplish during your time at Oxford?
Dixon: I hope to pursue a master’s of philosophy and comparative social policy. I had the fortune to grow up and study in two of the most dynamic policy places in the United States. So to be able to take that experience and bring it to another country is one that I'm looking very forward to and being able to understand, specifically in my field of housing and homelessness, what are the different policy initiatives of cities. That trade of knowledge is something that I very much hope to learn from the global community of Rhodes scholars and Oxford students.
Nieves Brown: I'm looking at a couple of programs. One is a master's—my parents want me to get a PhD, but I don't know if I have it in me—in comparative social policy. I want to look at Puerto Rico’s policies. A lot of our public institutions are facing a very rampant decline. And a lot of that has to do with our political circumstance and not really being able to have agency over how our island is run. So I'm interested in exploring how to revitalize these institutions and how to build a robust, essentially socialist state within Puerto Rico that’s also independent and sovereign. And that's a big, tall task that requires a lot of community and also a lot of international inspiration.