International affairs major receives 'the most famous academic award available to American college graduates'
Victoria Puglia ’21, an international affairs major, is among 32 students chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States.
Puglia and the other scholars will study at Oxford beginning next October in fields across the social, biological, and physical sciences, the humanities, and public policy, the Rhodes Trust announced. She is the second Lafayette student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. The other, Charles Benjamin Swartz, graduated in 1911 and received his Oxford degree in 1914.
The Rhodes Scholarship is extremely prestigious. Founded in 1902, it is “the oldest and best-known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates,” according to the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, Elliot Gerson.
Puglia, a dual U.S.-Spanish citizen, currently living in Wassenaar, Netherlands, has studied abroad in Peru, Uganda, India, and Senegal. She speaks English, Spanish, and Catalan natively, French fluently, and basic German. Her senior independent study project is on malnutrition in Sub-Saharan African refugee settlements, a study that has grown out of her previous study abroad research in Uganda while volunteering with AFOD, the main implementing partner for the World Food Program in the region.
“We are incredibly proud of Victoria,” said President Alison Byerly. “This award is a testament not only to her past academic achievements, but also to her commitment to having an impact on the world in the years to come.”
Julia Goldberg, associate dean of advising, co-curricular programs, and director of the scholarships and fellowships office, credited Puglia’s “seriousness of purpose, commitment to research and advocacy, and engaging intellect” for her selection as a Rhodes Scholar. “Those traits came across just as strongly in a Zoom call as they would have during a traditional, in-person interview,” Goldberg said.
I am incredibly excited for and humbled by the opportunity to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. I am honored to be the first woman from Lafayette to have won the scholarship; women were not even allowed to apply for it until 1976.
Puglia has won numerous academic prizes at Lafayette across several disciplines, has a perfect academic record, and is president of the Lafayette International Students Association. Puglia is passionate about refugee rights, equitable development, humanitarian aid, and food security. She is active with the College’s Refugee Action club and is a McKelvy Scholar who currently serves as president of the McKelvy House.
At Oxford, she will pursue master’s degrees in refugee and forced migration studies, and in global governance and diplomacy.
“I am incredibly excited for and humbled by the opportunity to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar,” Puglia says. “I am honored to be the first woman from Lafayette to have won the scholarship; women were not even allowed to apply for it until 1976. I am forever grateful for the professors (Caleb Gallemore, Katalin Fabian, Angelika von Wahl, Hannah Stewart-Gambino, Cory Fischer-Hoffman), and administrators (Dean Goldberg and Janine Block) who have supported me, guided me, and inspired me to delve into the world of academia. I am also so thankful for my friends who have been by my side throughout this entire process; and most importantly to my parents and brother, for constantly supporting, challenging, and encouraging me. I look forward to seeing what the future brings.”
In May, Puglia was among 23 recipients of the Aaron O. Hoff Awards, which honor the College’s first African-American student and recognize awardees for their inspiration, contributions, dedication, and leadership in the Lafayette community. Puglia received the Frances Ocansey-Ahene Spirit of Multiculturalism Award, which recognizes an upper-level student whose commitment to academic excellence and inclusive leadership within the community transcends all barriers and exemplifies the ethos of multiculturalism at Lafayette.
She was also one of five Lafayette students to receive the Rev. J. W. and R. S. Porter Bible Prize in religious studies for having demonstrated high proficiency in the study of religion, based upon work done in their first and second years. Puglia was a Truman Scholarship finalist last spring.
In a June story, Puglia shared her thoughts on remote learning, influential classes and professors, and her love of the outdoors and photography.