Henry Wu wasn’t sure it was real.
“I think I was just in shock,” Wu, a fourth-year in philosophy and political science, said of the moment he learned he had been selected for a 2020 Rhodes Scholarship.
The scholarship funds two or three years of studying at the University of Oxford in England, according to a news release by the Rhodes Trust. Students who apply must receive the endorsement from their own university, and the United States is divided into 16 districts with a selection committee that invites strong applicants for an interview. In total, 32 scholars are selected.
Wu said the process for selecting a candidate at Ohio State started in the spring semester of his third year. He said he submitted his personal statements and application in October, then was called in for an interview at the Chicago History Museum in November.
He said all the finalists walked out and the judges read a piece of paper that announced his name in the late afternoon shortly after his second interview.
“In the morning, it was people playing card games, people walking around the museum and talking and having fun, and towards the afternoon, you could tell people were stressed,” Wu said.
Lawrence Baum, a professor in the political science department who advises Wu for his thesis on federal human trafficking cases and the sentencing decisions of judges, said he wrote letters of recommendations for the scholarship.
Baum said Wu is among the best students he has had.
“I think what stands out about Henry is a combination of very, very impressive record as a student and the fact that he has devoted so much time and energy and taken so much initiative to deal with the problem of human trafficking,” Baum said.
Wu is an Eminence fellow — a fellowship for students who show potential as leaders and academic scholars outside and inside of class, according to Ohio State’s Honors & Scholars website — and with part of the scholarship, co-founded “Enlighten,” a student organization that educates students about human trafficking and how to help victims.
“I think it was because once I started learning about this, I couldn’t help but learn more, and it was that — you had a feeling of there’s so much more to learn,” Wu said. “Seeing the fact that students can be so passionate about this issue, and can care about the issue, kind of just gives me hope for the future and gives me an understanding that, yes, I am working on this issue, but I am not alone.”
Wu said he interned at the Human Trafficking Legal Center and Free the Slaves in Washington, D.C., and currently volunteers at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.
“The most fulfilling for me is knowing that I can make an impact,” Wu said. “It’s just both a challenge in an intellectual sense but also just a challenge in the fact that this is such an important issue that needs to be addressed.”
Wu said he is interested in attending law school, but is looking forward to the academic community at Oxford in the near future. He is excited to attend in October and pursue graduate studies in political theory and migration studies.