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College of Liberal Arts Graduate Named Rhodes Scholar

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Isaac James Headshot
University of Texas at Austin graduate Isaac W. James.

AUSTIN, Texas — Recent University of Texas at Austin graduate Isaac W. James has been selected as one of 32 Americans in the 2023 class of Rhodes scholars, one of the most prestigious graduate scholarships in the world. Awarded by the Rhodes Trust, the scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford.

The U.S. scholars, who are among students selected from more than 60 countries, were vetted by 16 independent committees from a pool of more than 2,500 applications. James is one of two recipients of the award in Texas and among only three public university recipients.

“We are thrilled to hear of Isaac’s selection as a Rhodes scholar,” said Ann Huff Stevens, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “He was a remarkable member of our community and was selected in the spring as one of our Dean’s Distinguished Graduates. We knew he was headed for big things, and this well-earned honor is more evidence of that.”

An Arlington, Texas, native, James graduated in May with a B.A. in government and Plan II Honors and a minor in LGBTQ+ studies. He has spent the fall as a Coro fellow in public affairs, a public sector leadership development program in New York City, cycling between placements within a government agency, a political consulting firm and a labor union.

“Isaac is one of those students who come along rarely in a teaching career, whom you remember forever for making it all worthwhile,” said Lisa L. Moore, professor of English literature and director of the LGBTQ Studies program. “In terms of his leadership on campus and beyond, Isaac always seemed to be everywhere at once, from interning at the LGBTQ+ Legislative Caucus to working closely with the Gender and Sexuality Center on important issues of housing, the use of accurate names in university systems, and restroom accessibility. In only four years, Isaac definitely left the UT campus better than he found it.”

Active in student advocacy while at UT Austin, James was an elected leader of the UT Senate of College Councils and directed the Queer and Trans Student Alliance. His on-campus leadership was mirrored in his research, including work with UT’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lab on publications that showed how enumerated anti-bullying and harassment policies benefit the physical and mental health of queer and trans students.

He has published extensively on LGBTQ rights and his career goals relate to implementing LGBTQ-inclusive education policy.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are hot topics in our public education system right now, especially in Texas,” James said. “The Rhodes will give me a platform to elevate and study the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive education policy among an incredible cohort of other scholars and leaders. I look forward to bringing what I learn back to the United States to make a difference for my community.”

James plans to pursue an M.Sc. in education at Oxford, with a concentration in digital and social change.