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Off to Oxford

Political science and chemistry joint major N.L.'s 2024 Rhodes scholar

By Jill Hunt

After two days of intense interviews, Katherine Dibbon received the phone call she was waiting for.

It’s official: Ms. Dibbon is Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2024 Rhodes scholar.

“I am still in disbelief, but I am beyond excited for this opportunity,” she said. “It not only allows me to study at Oxford University, but to also join an international network of Rhodes scholars whom I can learn from and work with. It really is a game-changer for me and will change the trajectory of my life.”

Fully funded studies

The Rhodes Scholarship is the world’s preeminent and oldest graduate fellowship, based at the University of Oxford since 1903.

The first Canadian Rhodes scholars took up residence in Oxford in 1904, and since that time, over a thousand Canadians have been awarded this prestigious scholarship.

Eleven remarkable young Canadians were awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships for Canada this year.

They will head to the University of Oxford in October 2024 for fully funded post-graduate studies, joining a cohort of more than 100 Rhodes scholars from around the world.

“I always admired the opportunities the Rhodes Scholarship presented and looked up to many of the previous scholars,” said Ms. Dibbon. “When applications opened this year, I knew I wanted to apply.”

Promoting pregnancy advocacy

Ms. Dibbon is completing her final year of a joint bachelor of arts and bachelor of science (honours) degree, studying political science and chemistry (biological).

“My undergraduate honours thesis looked at the impact of maternal plastic exposure on placental function,” she said. “I want to continue researching pregnancy building upon the work I completed with leading experts in different university labs in Canada.”

The Rhodes selection process aims to choose young people with proven academic excellence who also show exceptional character, leadership, the energy to use their talents to the full and a commitment to solving humanity’s challenges.

“At Oxford, I hope to pursue a D.Phil. in women’s and reproductive health and research pregnancy.” — Katherine Dibbon

The selection process includes a rigorous review prior to an interview with a selection committee composed of subject matter experts and leaders in the community.

“Ms. Dibbon is highly deserving of this prestigious fellowship,” said President Neil Bose. “She’s an excellent scholar and highly likely to make a real difference in the world. I have no doubt that her contributions to the world will improve women’s health outcomes and will do so in a way that considers the science and the politics of equity and empowerment.”

Ms. Dibbon says an opportunity to study at Oxford has always been a goal.

“It’s an alignment of purpose and an opportunity to make a lasting impact.”

She continues to say that “to be given the opportunity to study at Oxford is a privilege. The Rhodes community is not only committed to academics, but to global service and changing the world. My goal is to pursue an MD and a PhD to use the science of today to treat patients and be inspired by those experiences to lead research and develop the science of tomorrow. At Oxford, I hope to pursue a D.Phil. in women’s and reproductive health and research pregnancy.”

Community leader

Ms. Dibbon is highly involved in the Memorial University community.

She is a Memorial student leader, Memorial ambassador and a Welcome Week volunteer.

She also works in the Student Experience Office. She is the president of the Chemistry Society and director of communications for the Women in Science and Engineering Undergraduate Society.

“Memorial has been a special community for me to be a part of,” she said. “I have many mentors to thank in the departments of chemistry, political science and student life.”

Born and raised in St. John’s, N.L., Ms. Dibbon says she appreciates her community and the support she’s received.

“Growing up in a place with a strong sense of community and around people who are resilient, embrace uncertainty and love to share their culture has shown me the importance of surrounding myself with those who support me on my journey. I am grateful for my community of mentors, friends and change-makers at home.”

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