The former English major is the 79th Dartmouth graduate to earn the Rhodes honor.
Sarah Waltcher ’16 has been named a Rhodes Scholar—one of 32 Americans among 95 top students from around the world chosen to pursue graduate studies at the University of Oxford next year.
The Rhodes scholarship is the oldest international graduate scholarship in the world. Past Rhodes Scholars have gone on to become heads of state, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, leaders of colleges and universities, and Supreme Court justices. Waltcher is Dartmouth’s 79th Rhodes Scholar.
“Sarah’s accomplishment has made the Dartmouth community proud,” says Provost Carolyn Dever. “Her commitment to learning and teaching reflects her character and her leadership, and exemplifies the best of what the liberal arts have to offer. I am delighted that the Rhodes Trust has recognized her potential.”
Originally from New York City, Waltcher majored in English at Dartmouth. Since graduating as a valedictorian last year, she has taught sixth-grade science at the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in Brooklyn.
She plans to use her Rhodes Scholarship “to continue my studies of English to prepare myself for a career at the intersection of academia and social justice work,” she says.
Of receiving the award, Waltcher says, “I am still in shock. I am grateful to the friends, family, professors, colleagues, students, and strangers who have pushed me towards critical self-reflection in a way that carried me through the interview process. I am honored to have this opportunity, and to begin the real work that only starts with the Rhodes.”
A member of Phi Beta Kappa and a Rufus Choate Scholar, Waltcher received five citations for academic excellence in her Dartmouth coursework. She was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar and served as a teaching assistant for two community-based learning courses: “Telling Stories for Social Change”—co-taught by English Professor Ivy Schweitzer and Pati Hernandez, a lecturer in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies—and “Writing Our Way Home,” with Terry Tempest Williams, a visiting professor in environmental studies.
“Sarah is one of the most creative thinkers and sophisticated scholars I have had the privilege of working with in my more than 30 years teaching undergraduates at Dartmouth,” says Schweitzer. “She combines a keen intellect and love of language with a great heart and unflagging passion for social justice.”
That concern for social justice found outlets in her work with Student Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD), through which she served as a summer mentor in Hanover and as a winter intern at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics. She was a student program assistant for the Dartmouth Leadership, Attitudes and Behaviors Program, volunteered with Big Brother Big Sister/SIBS, and participated in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership’s intergroup dialogue program. She also participated in Voices, an original production written by and for Dartmouth women.
Among her other Dartmouth activities, Waltcher worked as an admissions tour guide and served as a trip leader and Vox crew member for Dartmouth Outing Club first-year trips. She was vice president of standards for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, a member of Palaeopitus and Phoenix senior societies, and participated in the Spanish language study abroad program in Buenos Aires.
Waltcher completed a teaching fellowship with Breakthrough New York—part of the Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that prepares students in underserved schools for college and helps prepare new educators—and received the 2015 Breakthrough Teaching Excellence Award.
Receiving the Rhodes, she says, “affirms my belief that education and storytelling should be at the heart of our national values. As someone who values platforms for self-reflection, I found the process of applying was valuable in itself as an exercise in articulating what matters to me. I feel privileged to be considered to join a community that shares my values of scholarship and service.”
“I’m delighted that Sarah has been recognized for her extraordinary achievements and her passion to make the world a better place. This is an honor the entire Dartmouth community can celebrate,” says Jessica Smolin, assistant dean for scholarship advising. “I hope this win will inspire more Dartmouth students to pursue the Rhodes. Beyond winning a scholarship, the application process is a valuable way for students to think seriously about their goals and values.”