Two USC alumni named Rhodes Scholar Finalists

Two USC alumni have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship – Oscar De Los Santos ’15 and Zoë Scandalis ’15.

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Oscar De Los Santos, first in his family to attend college, was selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants for a full-tuition USC Norman Topping Scholarship.  As a sophomore he was highly involved with the Obama 2012 reelection campaign, and the impact of his work was so significant that he was one of only six volunteers invited to dine with President Obama in Washington DC.  Oscar’s exceptional academic achievements, leadership record, and commitment to public service flourished while at USC, and in 2014, among a national pool of nearly 700 candidates, Oscar was selected as one of fewer than sixty Harry S. Truman Scholars.  Oscar graduated in May 2015, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.  He was selected as a member of the Order of the Laurel and Palm, a USC Global Scholar, and USC Discovery Scholar.  Oscar demonstrates an innate drive for community betterment and empathy for underserved communities in his professional career as well, first as a 6th grade English and Social Studies teacher for high-risk youth, and now in his role as an anti-hunger, anti-poverty public policy advocate.  With the Rhodes Scholarship he seeks to pursue two one-year courses: the Master of Public Policy and the MSt in Theology, specializing in Christian Ethics.

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Zoë Scandalis graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political economy and minor in environmental studies.  As a senior she was recognized as a Stevens Scholar for graduating among the top ten percent of her class and a Willis O’Hunter awardee for the senior athlete with the highest cumulative GPA.  She was also selected to serve on the USC Provost’s Oversight Committee for Athletic Academic Affairs, where she reviewed and advised on programs and policies, and played an important role in assessing integrity among the student athlete community.  For her achievements in the classroom and beyond, Zoë was awarded a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship which recognizes the Association’s most accomplished student athletes who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, on the court, and in their community. Since graduation, Zoë has continued to exemplify the title “Scholar Athlete” collaborating with her professor on a research paper on Corporate Social Responsibility and playing professional tennis internationally.  In 2015, Zoë was chosen as one of only nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.  Most recently, Zoë has focused her civic energy on promoting young girls through the Girl Up – United Nations Adolescent Girl Campaign and, in South Los Angeles through a junior high girls mentoring program which she created.  Eager to connect her interests in education, research, and public service Zoë seeks to pursue the two-year MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford.

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars from a pool of nearly 900.  Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead. The Rhodes Trust, a British charity established to honor the will and bequest of Cecil J. Rhodes, provides full financial support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford. (Rhodes Trust, 2016).  Nine USC Trojans have been selected for the Rhodes Scholarship.  You can see a complete list on the Leavey Library Wall of Scholars.