Georgia Tech student Calvin Runnels, Rhodes Scholar

Transgender Georgia Tech student named Rhodes Scholar

A transgender Georgia Tech student is among the select few in the U.S. chosen to receive a Rhodes Scholarship this year. Calvin Runnels, a senior biochemistry major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is the second openly trans American Rhodes Scholar ever. The scholarship is considered to be the most prestigious available to American students and covers all expenses for two to three years of study starting next fall at Oxford University in England.

“I was absolutely floored when they called my name,” Runnels told Georgia Voice. “I had been steeling myself to congratulate two of my new friends from among the other 13 finalists — all of whom, I think, would have been exceptionally deserving of the scholarship. Most of all, I am excited to get to know the other 31 American Rhodes Scholars-elect who received the good news yesterday, as well as all the other scholars from around the globe; I think we all have an incredible amount to learn from one another.”

Runnels joins one other Georgia student to win a Rhodes Scholarship this year — Chelsea Jackson, a double-major in political science and African-American studies from Lithonia. Jackson is the fourth woman and first African-American student from Emory to receive the scholarship. This latest group of U.S. Rhodes Sholars includes 10 African Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class.

Prominent Rhodes Scholars include former President Bill Clinton, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, lesbian MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and Agnes Scott College president Elizabeth Kiss.

Here’s some more info on Runnels’ per the Rhodes Trust:

Calvin Runnels, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a senior at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is pursuing a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and maintains a 4.0 GPA. Calvin’s research advances protein crystallographic techniques and investigates origins of the ribosome, which may provide insight into the origins of life. A passionate educator, Calvin is dedicated to “helping others find the joy and satisfaction in learning as I have.” At Georgia Tech, Calvin has been recognized as the highest rated Teaching Assistant for his work in undergraduate mathematics. An effective activist, Calvin has organized rallies in solidarity with the immigrant community and has led efforts to increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Calvin was also appointed by the President of Georgia Tech to co-chair the university’s LGBT+ Action Committee. Calvin is a transgender male. He follows Pema McLaughlin, the first self-acknowledged transgender American Rhodes Scholar (elected in 2016). At Oxford, Calvin will read for a D.Phil. in Biochemistry.