Earning one of the most competitive and prestigious academic awards in the world, Teachers College student MacKenzie (Kenzie) Isaac has been named a 2022 Rhodes Scholar. The award will fund Isaac’s pursuit of a doctorate degree in population health at the University of Oxford next year, following her graduation from TC’s Health Education program.
“I’m looking forward to working under some wonderful research faculty in the health services research unit, and learning what it means to work at the nexus of research and community-informed development,” says Isaac, who is just one of 32 students awarded the honor out of more than 2,300 who began the application process. “I want to continue taking on challenges. I look forward to leaving [Oxford] with more questions than answers, and I think the Rhodes Scholarship will give me the opportunity to ask those questions.”
Isaac, who came to TC following her undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, aspires to lead “evidence-based, community-informed, and sustainable interventions” in public health disparities among communities of color – a framework that Isaac describes as a largely “emerging concept,” except at TC.
“I’m really privileged to be part of the Health Education program at Teachers College, because [community-informed health policy, research and promotion] is more of a standard than a novel concept,” says Isaac. “I’m looking forward to building my understanding of that, and continuing to work with individuals who can help inform the role I want to play in the world.”
Completing her TC studies remotely in order to continue working across the country, Isaac serves as an ally through AmeriCorps at the Indianapolis-based public health nonprofit Health by Design. She is also currently contributing to the development of an emotional abuse prevention curriculum for the nonprofit Omena Madagascar, and serves in additional community service roles in her beloved hometown.
For Isaac, the ability to continue her work in Indianapolis while earning her master’s at TC has been one of the most rewarding components of her experience as a student.
“There’s a broad definition of what it means to be part of the TC community,” says Isaac, who despite studying remotely, has still actively participated in community dialogues and felt included, “which I think is really powerful because you can be physically present in a space and still feel alone. At TC, I feel the exact opposite...I feel like my voice is heard and that my voice is represented.”
As Isaac looks towards her last semester at TC and eventual trek to Oxford, the opportunity still doesn’t seem real.
“I’ve been thinking about how this opportunity is going to change my life,” says Isaac. “This scholarship is a culmination of not only my efforts, but the love and trust, time and energy that has been poured into me by my family; my peers, who have pulled me out of moments of self-doubt; and community leaders who have given me opportunities to lead. This is because of others who saw assets within me that I didn’t see in myself.”