University of Tulsa senior Hannah Vissers has lived all over the world and knows what it feels like to be displaced. And it was her experience temporarily having to flee her family home in Honduras after a military coup that inspired her college research projects on immigration and her latest accomplishment as a 2018 Rhodes Scholarship finalist.
Rhodes finalists are chosen for exceptional academic achievement, leadership, character and a passion for helping others. Only 11 Canadian students this year will be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, which includes financial support for two years of study at the University of Oxford. “I feel so fortunate,” said Vissers, who holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United Kingdom. “I want to study at Oxford for the opportunity to be in the Refugee and Forced Migration Studies program. There’s no other program that captures my passion quite like this one.”
As a sociology major, Vissers makes her passion evident through her research on recent events, from studying the tense atmosphere for immigrants in Germany to the experience of undocumented Latin American immigrants in the United States. “I know the hard balance of wanting to be accepted but not assimilated, recognized but not isolated” she explained.
In 2016, Vissers was selected for a research-based study-abroad program in International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy. For six weeks in Geneva, Switzerland, she interviewed professors, diplomats and specialists working for various branches of the United Nations. She asked the burning question “How do we create a world … where ethnic or cultural background does not determine where one works, lives or is treated?”
In addition to her studies, Vissers is captain of the TU rowing team and was chosen Most Valuable Player by her teammates. University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy was proud to recommend Vissers for the Rhodes Scholarship. “Her awards for athletic achievements are numerous and significant; and by the nature of their selection, it is apparent that she is perceived as a leader who has garnered respect from her peers as well as her coaches and their professional organizations,” he said.
Whether through rowing, tutoring elementary school students or Model UN, Vissers proves her leadership prowess. “I could either work in policy making to ease the process of migration of refugees into their new host country or work with local governments to ensure the necessary infrastructures and employment systems for pre-established refugee/forced migrant communities to develop their self-sustainability,” she said.
Clancy believes the opportunity to further study forced migration at Oxford “seems to be a good fit with her undergraduate research and preparation for deeper involvement with refugee studies,” he said. “When as educators we watch our finest students develop, grow and engage their passions, we are especially satisfied to be able to endorse a student like Hannah Vissers for the Rhodes Scholarship.”