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Written by: Karen Templeton
Media contact: Yvonne Taunton

 Rhodes.2020Senior Zahrah Abdulrauf in the College of Arts and Sciences is recognized for outstanding academic achievement and community involvement.

Zahrah Abdulrauf, a University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences student, has been named a Rhodes Scholar finalist, one of the few selected each year to compete for an opportunity to study at Oxford University.

The scholarship, which supports scholars through postgraduate education at the University of Oxford, is highly selective, choosing candidates based on academic excellence, a commitment to changing the world, a concern for the welfare of others, an awareness of the state of the world and the promise of leadership. 

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview for the Rhodes Scholarship, and just to be selected as a finalist is an honor,” Abdulrauf said. “There are so many people around me that have helped make this possible, and my gratitude to them cannot be overstated. I am so thankful for the mentors, professors and friends that have believed in me along the way.”

Abdulrauf, also a UAB Honors College student, majors in cognitive science and minors in economics, philosophy and media studies — a personally designed course of study. She is deeply involved in the Birmingham community, serving as a consultant and intern at nonprofits and city offices such as REV Birmingham and the City of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity. Her work across campus and the city has provided a valuable perspective on the intricacies of the economic problems she seeks to address during her career.

“Rhodes Scholars are marked by their drive to ‘fight the world’s fight,’ and this describes Zahrah, through and through,” said Michelle Cook, Ph.D., interim director of UAB’s International and National Fellowships and Scholarships. “Zahrah has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments, and every single thing on that list has been undertaken in the service of others: to educate, to create opportunities, to protect and empower.” 

Abdulrauf assisted in the management of a City of Birmingham-supported research project about the community effects of COVID-19 in order to inform economic recovery strategy and policy. As a freelance designer since the age of 11, she uses her communication skills to manage the social media channels for the public-private partnership Bham Strong, an organization coordinating Birmingham’s COVID-19 response. In 2019, she was named a Forbes Under 30 Scholar and a UAB Undergraduate Student Innovator of the Year.

“Through multiple points of engagement with the Birmingham community and the UAB campus community, Zahrah has gained valuable perspective on the intricacies of the economic problems she wishes to address with her career,” Cook said. “Being asked to interview for the Rhodes Scholarship is an honor and an incredible opportunity. I know I speak for the UAB community when I say that we are so very proud of her.” 

Abdulrauf will interview for the scholarship in late November.