By Katelyn McBride
UI senior Renugan Raidoo was recently named a 2011 Rhodes Scholar – one of only 32 awardees in the nation and the first Rhodes Scholar at The University of Iowa since 1993. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, which Raidoo will use to work toward a masters of philosophy degree in social anthropology.
Raidoo is a Presidential Scholar at the UI majoring in chemistry and anthropology. He is a nationally recognized Goldwater Scholar and has presented research in Germany, California and Iowa. Also actively involved on campus, Raidoo is a leader in the UI’s Global Health Club, a member of Amnesty International, a staff member at the UI Honors Program, and the director of Intersection, an acapella group.
“To be honest, I have never really met a subject in which I did not take interest,” Raidoo said. “I find all modes of inquiry interesting, and I think being able to reflect on one subject through the lens of another has contributed the most to my intellectual development.”
At age 11, Raidoo emigrated from South Africa with his family to Sioux Falls, S.D., a town he describes as racial diverse as “a box of white crayons.” He became an amateur anthropologist at that early age, immersing himself in local customs by playing American football and eating Pop Tarts for breakfast.
“Coming from South Africa, a country in which Sesame Street is in three different languages, where I was part of a large Indian community inscribed within the colonial history of the country, and having gone to a Jewish private school for the first half of my education, I always had a sense of what cultural diversity meant,” Raidoo said.
Raidoo’s diverse background has given him unique perspectives on culture and people that he says have equipped him with the skills to relate to others.
During the summer of 2010, Raidoo participated in the Research Internships in Science & Engineering (RISE) program in Mainz, Germany. The RISE internship pairs up an undergraduate student with a German doctoral student. No prior knowledge of German is required.
Raidoo calls it a “wonderful” program that he recommends to every undergraduate student interested in science.
“It taught me that science is very much a culturally practiced discipline–German researchers work differently from American ones. This is an important lesson, I think, for any scientist,” he said. “In part, it permitted me to see the limitations of science, but also the benefits of being a member of the scientific community.”
Raidoo is looking forward to his next cross-cultural educational experience in 2011 at Oxford University. He says the British school of anthropology is different from the American school, and he is excited to expand his horizons in a different cultural context and socialize around a common interest in scholarship.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am also excited to hang out in buildings that have been around since the Middle Ages,” he admits. “There’s something unexplainably pleasurable about just being in old buildings and experiencing history first hand.”
For more information about the Rhodes Scholarships, visit www.rhodesscholar.org.
Renugan Raidoo will be appearing on the February 18 WorldCanvass program on East Africa