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Wake Forest senior awarded Rhodes Scholarship
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Wake Forest senior awarded Rhodes Scholarship


Savarni Sanka, who is from Raleigh, plans to pursue a masters of public policy and masters of science in refugee and forced migration studies.

A Wake Forest University senior has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

Savarni Sanka, who is from Raleigh, plans to pursue a masters of public policy and masters of science in refugee and forced migration studies. She was among 32 Americans chosen from a pool of more than 2,300 applicants by the Rhodes Trust to study at England’s University of Oxford in the fall of 2021.

“It’s an incredible honor to be named a Rhodes Scholar,” Sanka said. “I owe my success to every mentor and teacher I’ve had from kindergarten to now. Every single professor at Wake Forest has influenced me in some way.”

Sanka is the 14th Wake Forest student to be named a Rhodes Scholar since 1987. This year's winners were announced early Sunday. 

She is majoring in politics and international affairs and Spanish. She has also studied or done volunteer work in Spain, Morocco and Nicaragua. In addition, Sanka is also earning a minor in Middle East and South Asia Studies. She has been a leader in the Student Association for the Advancement of Refugees.

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“Having had the opportunity to work alongside Winston-Salem’s migrant community has been one of the most rewarding parts of my college career,” said Sanka. “I’ve been involved with migrant communities for a long time. My parents immigrated to the states from India in the 1990s and seeing the marginalization and silencing that migrant communities often face, I wanted to be a part of building more equitable and just societies where everyone has access to opportunity and where everyone’s voice can be heard.”

Sanka worked closely with Tom Phillips, the recently retired director of the Wake Forest Scholars Program toward her goal to earn the Rhodes Scholarship. She said Phillips inspired her to be true to herself.

“Savarni shared with me her developing research interests, her passion for service, and her love of languages and how they can be used to help understand people other than ourselves,” Phillips said. “She is one of the two best, pure altruists I worked with in my 40 years at Wake Forest. Her every step and every act is engendered by a passion for learning and a need to serve.”

“I am grateful to Professor Darlene May, who taught me Arabic. Learning Arabic opened the doors for so many learning experiences for me,” Sanka said.

Sanka is also the recipient of the Joseph G. Gordon Scholarship and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious academic honor society for the liberal arts.



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