Nov. 24, 2009 -- University of North Carolina seniors Henry Spelman and Libby Longino are both heading to Oxford next year, joining 30 other students from the U.S. who were selected as Rhodes Scholars. Besides being students at UNC, Spelman and Longino have another thing in common -- they have been dating for nine months.
Longino and Spelman met during freshman year and then reconnected two years later on a summer research trip in Turkey.
"The worst possible situation would have been if one of us won and the other didn't," said Spelman. "It would have been hard for the winner to celebrate."
The scholarship, worth around $50,000 per year, funds a two to four year graduate study program at the University of Oxford in England.
When the chair of the Rhodes selections committee read off his name last Saturday Spelman said, "I just felt my knees loosen."
"I staggered a bit and got this big, stupid grin on my face," he said. "I can't remember anything that was said to me for the next ten minutes."
Longino also found it hard to process information after the announcement.
"I think my first thought was something really profound, like, 'Oh my god, I'm going to Oxford,' " Longino joked.
She said the whole experience will be much more exciting knowing that she and Spelman will be going to Oxford together.
"I couldn't be happier," Longino said.
A double major in English and public policy analysis, Longino will pursue a master's degree in forced migration. She says she wants to work for a non-profit or international organization on international human rights.
Spelman, who majors in classical languages and has a minor in creative writing, will pursue a master's degree in Greek and Latin languages and literature. He hopes to become a professor of Latin and Greek, and credits his unique combination of interests as being part of the reason he received the prestigious award.
"I'm passionate about studying Latin and Greek poetry, writing my own poetry, helping refugees and playing squash," said Spelman.
Outside of the classroom, Spelman heads the Amnesty International chapter at UNC and has spent two summers with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Tanzania. He also plays on the club squash team and is the editor of The Cellar Door, UNC's undergraduate literary magazine.
Longino said her extensive international experience in social justice and human rights helped her as a candidate for the scholarship. Her travels have taken her all over the world, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Israel. She spent one summer interning with a microcredit program in Vietnam where she photographed homes and businesses of loan recipients and documented items bought from the loans. Other globetrotting activities included helping to start a group stopping child prostitution in Cambodia, and researching human trafficking in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
At UNC, Longino has served on the Student Attorney General's staff and is currently the president of the Carolina chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student think tank.