First Temple grad to win Rhodes scholarship accepts with humility, high hopes

Hazim Hardeman is the first Temple University graduate heading to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Hazim Hardeman is the first Temple University graduate heading to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

When Temple University graduate Hazim Hardeman heard his name called as a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship late Saturday afternoon, he was overwhelmed with a whirl of emotions.

“It’s not something that I could ever imagine. Growing up where I grew up, Temple is the pinnacle of education, said Hardeman. “Now, to be going to Oxford, I couldn’t have possibly dreamt of anything close to that.”

Hardeman, a strategic communications major who graduated with honors in May, will be the first Temple student heading to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar. He will be joining 32 other American scholars selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 800 applicants.

A true homegrown scholar, Hardeman grew up in North Philadelphia, attended public schools, and earned his associate’s degree at the Community College of Philadelphia before transferring to Temple in 2015. Hardeman, 23, has never been out of the U.S.

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He attributes the distinction of his scholarship to the many mentors and people who’ve believed in from elementary school through college.

“I’ve just had opportunities,” said Hardeman. That’s something “a lot of people aren’t given where I come from, and, if they were given the same opportunities, I have no doubt in my mind that the outcomes would be similar or better than mine.”

One of those opportunities came in third grade when he was bused to an elementary school in Roxborough with better resources than the one in his neighborhood. Hardeman wrote about his early education as a formidable experience in his Rhodes application.

“In the shock of all of this, I kept saying this doesn’t happen to people where I’m from, but now it does,” said Hardeman. “I represent a possibility, and hopefully — through my having this opportunity — I can bring these experiences back to my community and leave the door open for somebody else to walk through it.”

At Oxford, Hardeman plans to study social or political theory as preparation for a career in education and research.

He joins the ranks of other notable Rhodes scholars: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; political commentator and host Rachel Maddow; and former Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

“It’s rare to have a student who meets the very high standards of academic excellence, leadership, and really strong character,” said Barbara Gorka, director of scholar development and fellowships advising at Temple.

Gorka was tipped off about Hardeman in the spring. An honors adviser recommended him after Hardeman gave a closing speech at the school’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, a course that brings together Temple students with students who are incarcerated.

After a little arm-twisting, Hardeman agreed to apply, and Gorka recognized him as a role model for Temple and Philadelphia, as well as being a real contender for the award.

“Hazim can go from talking about critical pedagogy theory at a graduate-student level one minute to talking about the Eagles or talking about your family the next. He’s an incredibly likable guy and incredibly curious,” said Gorka. “We think he’s going to do great things.”

Another student from a Philadelphia school, Christopher D’Urso, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, will also be joining Hardeman next fall as part of the American Rhodes scholar Class of 2018.

This year is also a record for African-American Rhodes scholars with 10 selected for the honor.

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