by Web on November 23, 2015
Ericka M. Wheeler, a Millsaps College student from Carrollton, Mississippi, has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar, one of 32 selected from across the United States. Wheeler is scheduled to graduate from Millsaps in May 2016, with dual degrees in English and history and a near-perfect GPA. She is the first African-American woman in Mississippi history to be named a Rhodes Scholar, and the sixth Millsaps College student to earn the scholarship. Wheeler will study at Oxford University in England before returning to the United States for medical school.According to its website, the Rhodes Scholarships “are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world,” and winners are “chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”
“Ericka is one of those rare people you meet and simply do not forget,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College. “Much of what makes her so special is rooted in her having grown up in the heart of the rural Mississippi Delta where she encountered some of the greatest poverty and starkest racial divisions found in the developed world. She is bound to the place by a sense of duty but is motivated to care for it by a love for its people.”
In her essay to the Rhodes scholarship committee, Wheeler wrote, “My community is sick – physically, socially, and economically… I plan to attack the issue of health from all standpoints but to truly make a difference, I cannot rely on the same knowledge and ideas that have dominated Mississippi for decades.”
Dr. Robert McElvaine, Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters and professor of history at Millsaps, has taught Wheeler in several courses, including trips abroad to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba.
“Ericka possesses an insatiable curiosity about other people, places, and cultures. Her energy is boundless,” McElvaine said. “She maintains a pace in a wide range of activities that leaves me breathless just thinking about it. She is absolutely committed to social justice and working for the betterment of others.”
In her time at Millsaps, Wheeler has been involved in Omicron Delta Kappa (a national leadership society for college students), Alpha Epsilon Delta (a premedical honor society), Mu Phi Epsilon (a co-ed international professional music fraternity), Phi Alpha Theta (a national history honor society), and Sigma Tau Delta (an international English honor society). She completed her honors thesis on “Crime, Race, and Police Brutality through Historical Fiction” in 2015.
Wheeler is an active volunteer in various programs in Jackson and the Delta area, ranging from youth mentoring programs to working with Alzheimer’s patients to document their stories and life narratives.
Millsaps senior Ardith Diane Bravenec was also a Rhodes Scholar finalist. A native of Brandon, Mississippi, Bravenec is scheduled to graduate in May 2016 with degrees in chemistry, creative writing, and mathematics. Bravenec was the only student from Mississippi to earn a Goldwater Scholarship in 2015.