The University of Toronto’s Ikran Jama and Jeffrey Fasegha are among 11 Canadians to receive a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford next year.
“As the daughter of refugees, it’s hard to put into words how much this means to me, my family and my community,” Jama said. “I’m overjoyed, grateful and honoured to have this award reflect the culmination of sacrifices, care and compassion given by those who raised and guided me.”
A member of Victoria College, Jama is completing a double major in criminology and socio-legal studies and international relations with a minor in African studies in the Faculty of Arts & Science. She is also president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) and is working to support underrepresented and marginalized communities.
“I’ve had to overcome a lot of barriers to even get to this stage in my studies and this award is a sign to me and anyone in the same position that we can always achieve incredible things,” Jama said.
Fasegha, meantime, graduated from the Faculty of Arts & Science in June with a bachelor of commerce degree in finance from Rotman Commerce with minors in psychology and economics. A member of University College, he believes in using innovation and entrepreneurship to improve the lives of people around the world.
“It is an absolute honour,” Fasegha said. “I thank God for the opportunity to further my research into how we can use innovation as a tool to solve our most pressing problems. I’m immensely grateful to my family, my friends and to the university for their support throughout the process. It truly takes a village.
“As I begin this new chapter in my life, I remember fondly the many kind people I’ve met at U of T and the good times we’ve had – with a special shout out to the Black Rotman Commerce community and the professors who changed my life.”
The 11 Canadian Rhodes Scholars join a class of more than 100 students from more than 60 countries to receive the scholarship to study at the University of Oxford next year. Since it was established in 1903, nearly 8,000 Rhodes Scholars – including more than 1,000 Canadians – have gone on to establish themselves in careers that range from government and business to the arts, education and research, among others.
U of T President Meric Gertler congratulated the two scholars.
“We are all incredibly proud of Ikran and Jeffrey, our newest Rhodes Scholars,” President Gertler said.
“Through their record of scholarly achievement, leadership and social engagement, they are an inspiration to all members of the University of Toronto community. We look forward to hearing about their accomplishments in the years to come.”
“This is wonderful news for these two exceptional students,” said Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.
“Ikran and Jeffrey both possess the qualities that define a Rhodes Scholar – academic excellence, character, leadership and a commitment to making the world a better place – and have contributed to the Faculty in remarkable ways. I am so proud and excited for them to have received this honour.”
As a two-term president of ASSU, Jama advocates on behalf of more than 27,000 students, a challenging role during COVID-19.
She is also passionate about amplifying the voices of marginalized communities and does so as a mentor for Somali youth and, previously, as a fellow at the Mosaic Institute, an international non-profit organization that seeks to reduce social divisions and prevent conflict. A Somali-Canadian, she is interested in researching how the law affects the lives of immigrant and refugee youth and hopes to one day apply her studies to advance criminal justice reforms at home and abroad.
Jama says she hopes to develop solutions to the social and legal issues that disproportionately affect communities like her own. At Oxford, she plans to continue to pursue research into criminology at the intersections of criminal justice, migration and the law.
As for Fasegha, his work focuses on using entrepreneurship and innovation as a tool for economic and social development – particularly in Nigeria, where he was born. At U of T, he led independent research on social enterprises in the Nigerian energy industry, founded the Black Career Conference, co-founded Black Rotman Commerce and held several leadership positions in finance student organizations where he worked to increase equity for marginalized groups.
He is currently working on his startup Fyyne, a platform for hair services where “anyone can make a living with their skills.” At Oxford, Fasegha plans to pursue a master’s degree in African studies and public policy with a focus on the innovation economy.
As she prepares for the next chapter of her educational journey, Jama recalled the support she received during her time as a U of T student.
“I will most value and am forever thankful for the friendships I’ve made, instructors who have inspired me and mentors who have guided me during my time at U of T,” she said.
“Without all of these remarkable people, this incredible community, I would not be where I am today. I share this moment with them all.”