Rhodes Scholarship Awarded to First Generation College Student, Ridwan Hassen


Ridwan Hassen was recently announced as one of the 2015 Rhodes Scholars, which likely holds great significance for him as he is the first person in his family to attend college. He joins fellow Dartmouth student, Miriam Kilimo as recipients of this very prestigious scholarship which will allow both students to continue their educations at Oxford University.

President of Dartmouth, Phil Hanlon, sang the much deserved praises of these two student’s by saying “On behalf of the entire Dartmouth community, I am so proud of Ridwan and Miriam, who are each impressive scholars in their own right. The fact that the College has again produced two Rhodes Scholars in a single year speaks to the depth and breadth of the intellectual opportunities available to students at Dartmouth.”

Hassen is the first in his family with the opportunity to pursue higher education as both of his parents are African refugees, with his father hailing from Ethiopia and his mother from Somalia. Each of his parents were denied the right to an education during their years in war torn Africa as were many other children during the conflict in the region.

His father was one of the children forced to go through life without any time in a classroom, which likely had a strong impact on his drive to succeed in his college endeavors. Hassen says, “My dad was denied an education. They always say education is the most important thing.”

Hassen is quite the adaptable student as he has already switched schools after spending his two years at Emory University as a computer science major with a neuroscience modification, which he continued at Dartmouth. When he transfers to Oxford, he will further display his ability to adapt and excel in a variety of educational settings as he begins his studies in public policy.

He says of his decision to switch fields of study, “If I did science at Oxford I’d be in the lab again and get the same experience. Studying policy is a way to challenge myself in a new environment.”

A Dartmouth professor, Maral Yessayan, who has had Hassen in his class has credited his ability and willingness to challenge himself as an admirable trait that will get his far in life.

Professor Yessayan spoke of Hassen’s dedication to his studies and class projects by saying, “Ridwan made his mark as a leader in the classroom from the very first day. He was always ready to venture into unknown territories.”

The newly minted Rhodes Scholar has also added charity founder to his resume by way of the Global Development Project (GDP) that he developed in 2013. He felt compelled to to start GDP in an attempt to actually help the citizens of the countries in need of economic help rather than just pumping up their economies as is so common with other charities.

When talking about GDP he says, “We believe influential capital already exists in these developing communities, and we want to tap into that and help them build their own infrastructure.”

Further adding to his qualities as a Rhodes Scholars is Hassen’s volunteer work as a counselor at his local Boys & Girls Club along with time spent tutoring refugees and mentoring chemistry students. He is also a frequent speaker at his high school in Georgia.

Hassen’s own mentor and one time teacher, Victor Burrell, says that he is “always trying to help people.” He also says, “He’s been the same person – humble, hardworking, nice, respectful.”

Hassen has said that he likely would not have applied for the Rhodes Scholarship if it wasn’t for the urging and guidance of his family and mentors. He says, “I’m glad I did it because the end result was something I couldn’t picture.”

He will now venture off to Oxford to complete his education and widen his horizons with aspirations to expand and improve GDP.

“All I know is I want to continue what I’m doing, working with GDP and influencing my community. If that takes me into policy or being a scientist I’m not sure, but Oxford will help me figure out what my true calling is.”

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