Georgia Tech Alumna Named Rhodes Scholar

Georgia Tech alumna Joy Buolamwini has been named a Rhodes scholar. She will attend the University of Oxford, where she plans to pursue degrees in African studies and global governance and diplomacy.

A 2012 computer science graduate from Memphis, Tenn., Buolamwini plans to use her skills to lower barriers in communication with the goal of increasing commerce, keeping governments accountable and improving the quality of life for millions of people.

“My mission is to show compassion through computation,” Buolamwini said. “The heart of computing is humanity, and as a Rhodes scholar, I will have an unprecedented opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of developing nations and global governance while connecting with world leaders who are committed to fighting the world’s fight – making sure each individual can reach her human potential.”

As a student, Buolamwini was a Stamps President’s scholar and received numerous other accolades. She was a two-year recipient of the Astronaut scholarship, a Google Anita Borg scholar and a Carter Center distinguished volunteer.

Also a recipient of a 2012-13 Fulbright Fellowship, Buolamwini plans to use her grant to improve access to education through her work for the nonprofit Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development, an organization that addresses poverty by providing scholarships for students who otherwise would be unable to continue their education.

Along with excelling in academics, Buolamwini is a successful entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded three businesses including Techturized, a hair care technology. She also is a 2012 graduate of Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint Start-up Accelerator.

“As an international civil servant, an entrepreneur and a researcher, I want to use mobile technology to address grand challenges in education and health while uplifting African nations,” she said. “I also want to encourage more women and underrepresented groups in computer science to not just be consumers of technology, but full participants in its creation.”

Buolamwini is the fourth Georgia Tech student to win a Rhodes scholarship and one of 32 U.S. students selected for the honor. She joins three other Georgia Tech Rhodes winners including Will Roper, physics, 2002; Jeremy Farris, international affairs, 2005; and Alton Newton Jr., chemistry, 1951.

Buolamwini also was one of three Georgia Tech students selected for district finalist interviews, marking the second time in the past four years that the Institute has had three students selected for Rhodes interviews. Biomedical engineering graduate Victor Lesniewski and current electrical engineering student Andrew Vaziri were also Rhodes finalists this year.

Rhodes scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. The application process requires the endorsement of the applicant’s college or university, five to eight qualified letters of recommendation, a personal essay, a transcript and a list of activities.