Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru, a senior at the University of Connecticut's (UConn) College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources has just been named the university's FIRST Rhodes Scholar. Wawa is among 31 other graduating seniors that will be taking their talents to the University of Oxford in England for their post graduate studies. Wawa stood out during the application and interview process of over 960 applicants that were nominated by their home institutions.
Wawa said, “As I reflect on my journey, it is extremely clear to me that my accomplishments – my story – is not my own,” she said Sunday. “I stand on the sturdy shoulders of the many people that have supported me along the way. My family, my mentors, and friends. The Rhodes application is particularly strenuous, with a total of eight letters of recommendation required. So I quite literally would have not been in this position if I didn’t have professors and mentors who believed in me. And I am so thankful for them.” Gatheru will join a long legacy of business leaders, presidents, politicians, and other influential Americans who have received the Rhodes Scholarship.
While this may come as a surprise to some, Gatheru is more than capable of achieving while in England. Before being named a Rhodes scholar, she was honored as a 2019 Truman Scholar and a 2019 Udall Scholar. While she was not the first UConn student to receive these awards, she is in fact the first student in UConn’s history to receive both scholarships in the same year. Wawa is also a recipient of the McCullough Leadership award, which is UConn's highest student leadership award. Gatheru did some digging on her own and said on her Instagram post that she is the only Black person in history to receive all the Rhodes, truman and Udall scholarships.
Thomas C. Katsouleas, UConn's President said, “Wawa is a rare talent who in her three years at UConn has built a legacy that will endure long after she has graduated. She has demonstrated not only a superior intellect, but a depth of character and an unbridled energy that compel her to take action. In addition to being academically gifted, she has played a leading role on critical issues, including environmental sustainability, the inclusiveness of our environment, and food insecurity on our campuses and in our state."
While at Oxford, Wawa plans to obtain dual graduate degrees in Nature, Society, and Environmental Governance and Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation. She has a goal of researching what prevents people of color from going into the environmental field.
On campus, Gatheru is very involved, mentoring students, serves as a teaching assistant, and serves as the student government vice president. In her free time, Wawa is a singer and according to her Twitter bio, she loves Normani. After finishing school, she has political aspirations, hoping to become the first black congresswoman of Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District.
Congrats Wawa! We cannot wait to see what great things you do in the world!