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Two U of T alumnae selected Rhodes Scholars

Alumna Chloe Walker receives her Rhodes Scholarship from Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave (left), while secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship for Jamaica and the Commonwealth Caribbean, Peter Goldson (second left) and Chief Justice Marston Gibson, a fo

Two alumnae from the University of Toronto’s Innis College – Aliyyah Ahad and Chloe Walker – will pursue post-graduate studies at Oxford University next year after being named 2014 Rhodes Scholars.

"To be honest, the reality of winning the Rhodes scholarship still hasn't quite sunken in yet,” Walker said. “To work so feverishly toward a goal and have it realized, exactly as I planned, is a little overwhelming.

"Needless to say, I'm excited, I'm extremely proud and I'm grateful.”

The Rhodes Scholarships are among the world’s most prestigious postgraduate awards, with only 83 students from universities around the world chosen each year. The scholarships support outstanding all-round students at Oxford as they develop into exceptional leaders who are motivated to fight for “the world’s fight” and hold public duties in the highest regard, all while promoting international understanding and peace.

“On behalf of the U of T community, I congratulate our alumnae, Aliyyah Ahad and Chloe Walker, on  being named 2014 Rhodes Scholars," said President Meric Gertler. "Their multi-faceted leadership and excellence are an inspiration to all of us, reflecting the highest ideals of the University of Toronto.”

Ahad (pictured right), who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of arts in political science and sociology, was the only recipient to be named from Bermuda. She has been working at the Bermuda Government Cabinet Office since her studies at U of T – first, in a year-long internshipand then as a consultant for the Human Rights Commission – and is now in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Winning the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the greatest honours that I have ever received,” Ahad. “I care so deeply about making a positive contribution to not only my home country of Bermuda but also to the world more broadly.”

Ahad is on the board of Bermuda’s Emerging Professionals, the youth division of the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes events for young professionals focusing on their development. A skilled debater, she has represented Bermuda at international tournaments and is on the board of the Bermuda Debate Society.

"My education at U of T played a vital role in equipping me with the critical thinking needed to succeed in the real world,” Ahad said, adding her experiences outside the classroom also had a big impact.

“The wide range of opportunities to get involved and to take leadership positions is unparalleled,” said Ahad. "Further, its location in the freezing yet welcoming multi-cultural city of Toronto makes U of T an absolute gem of higher learning.

“The fact that U of T partners with such incredible schools around the world gives students the privilege to gain a degree that is not only globally recognized, but also globally focused.”

Walker, the only Rhodes Scholar selected from Barbados, also graduated from U of T in 2012, with a bachelor of arts in literary studies and African studies. During her time at U of T she was president of the U of T Swahili Conversation Cluband an active volunteer, activities Walker credits with helping her develop “leadership and civic skills” sought by the Rhodes program. Now pursuing a master’s of philosophy in literatures in English at the University of West Indies, Walker is also serving as a member of their vice-chancellor’s ambassador corps, teaching English, coaching the debating club at her former high school and volunteering for Read for Life.

“My time at UofT definitely contributed significantly to being awarded the scholarship,” Walker said. “Both my majors were very demanding (particularly with regard to time constraints). Consequently, by the end of my tenure, I had honed several important academic skills, namely; research, time management, writing, presentation, working with others, and public speaking.

“Apart from academics, my confidence improved tremendously, and I was literally exposed to a whole new world and way of being. This gave me a new philosophy in life, which directly impacted my decision to apply for the scholarship

The recipient of the University of the West Indies Graduate Scholarship, the Innis College Exceptional Achievement Award and the CAPE Award for Top Performance in Humanities, Walker serves as a supervisor for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. She is also a founding member of global youth network AIESEC’s Barbados chapter, a student-run not-for-profit organization focused on world issues, leadership and management.

“Innis College is thrilled to have two graduates chosen as Rhodes Scholars," said Janet Paterson, principal of Innis. "Both Aliyyah Ahad and Chloe Walker exemplify, in a striking manner, the values of Innis College: high academic excellence and unwavering commitment to social improvement.  We are extremely proud of their achievement.”

Jessica Lewis is a writer with the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto.