Abu-Halawa named finalist for prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2017-11-29 14:46:03 - General

Ossama Abu-Halawa '17
Ossama Abu-Halawa '17

Coe College alumnus Ossama Abu-Halawa was recently named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, which is generally considered the most prestigious academic award available to American college graduates. Abu-Halawa was one of 228 finalists from 100 different colleges and universities across the country who reached the final stage of competition. This represents the second consecutive year that a Coe student or recent graduate has been named as a Rhodes finalist.

The Rhodes is the oldest and best known award for international study. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for up to four years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

In Coe history, only four students or alumni have been Rhodes finalists, including Abu-Halawa. Paul Engle '31 in 1933 and Darryl Banks '72 in 1972 both received the award and went on to study at Oxford. Last year, Malika Wilson '17 was a finalist for the scholarship.

Abu-Halawa graduated from Coe in 2017, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry with a minor in religion. He has deferred medical school to study for a master’s degree in philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. After he completes medical school, Abu-Halawa intends to work in research and global health.

During his sophomore year, Abu-Halawa first learned about the Rhodes Scholarship. He was strongly encouraged to apply for the national fellowship award by Provost and Dean of the Faculty Paula O'Loughlin and Banks, a previous Rhodes Scholar.

As Abu-Halawa began the application process last summer, he received guidance from Coe English Professor and National Fellowship Advisor Amber Shaw.

Abu-Halawa was then chosen as a Rhodes finalist, one of just 15 in his region. From the 16 Rhodes regions across the U.S., 32 students were named as Rhodes Scholars.

In Abu-Halawa's case, he and the other finalists from the central region of the country were interviewed by a seven-member panel in Chicago. While there, he had the opportunity to interact with the other finalists, with a majority of them from Ivy League or top-ranked colleges and universities. According to Abu-Halawa, all of the Rhodes finalists were impressive individuals, and the selection of the Rhodes Scholars in his district was not an easy process for the committee. Committee members deliberated for four hours after the interviews to select the two candidates who would win the scholarship.

Abu-Halawa said the Rhodes interview was a fun, rewarding experience, and he is honored to have made it to the finalist stage. It gave him a platform to talk about his passions at a deeper level and demonstrate his abilities to the selection committee members, all of whom are leaders in their fields.

"Coe prepared me well for the interdisciplinary and highly critical nature of the interviews, and although I did not receive the scholarship, I walked out of the interview feeling confident that I displayed the best of my abilities to the committee," said Abu-Halawa. "I am thankful for the professors at Coe who pushed me intellectually and fostered my critical thinking and well-roundedness for the real world."

While the Rhodes process is seemingly daunting at times, Abu-Halawa is encouraging other Coe students to apply for national fellowships.

"There are many resources to take advantage of at Coe College, especially the support of the professors," said Abu-Halawa. "That was the most important part of my education. I highly value my conversations with them, as their insights and recommendations were crucial to my development as a student and citizen. I stand on all of their shoulders, and I will be forever grateful to them."

At Coe, Abu-Halawa was an active member of Coe Student Senate. Among many other co-curricular activities, Abu-Halawa was a member of the Coe Writing Center and the swimming and diving team, and conducted medical research at the University of Iowa and Stanford University. He also studied abroad at the University of Oxford during the last semester of his senior year, and had the opportunity to travel to Thailand to teach English and Swaziland for a global health internship during May Terms at Coe.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Abu-Halawa is a graduate of Kennedy High School and is the son of Subhi and Malieh Abu-Halawa.

Coe College offers superb academics and exciting co-curricular activities in a thriving urban setting that promotes student growth and success. Established in 1851, Coe has a national reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment. Coe's vibrant Cedar Rapids location provides an abundance of internships for students and career opportunities for graduates.