Penn’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar is Mackenzie Fierceton from St. Louis, currently residing in Philadelphia. Fierceton earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Arts & Sciences and is currently completing her clinical master’s in social work degree after submatriculating into the School of Social Policy & Practice program in 2018.
“We are extremely proud of Penn’s newest Rhodes Scholar. Committed to research and advocacy to make a positive impact in the world, Mackenzie is so deserving of this prestigious opportunity to build upon her Penn education and experience,” said President Amy Gutmann. “As a first-generation low-income student and a former foster youth, Mackenzie is passionate about championing young people in those communities through her academic, professional, and personal endeavors, dedicating herself to a life of public service.”
The Rhodes is highly competitive and one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. The scholarships provide all expenses for as long as four years of study at Oxford in England.
Fierceton is one of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars chosen to represent the United States. According to the Rhodes Trust, this year more than 2,300 American students began the application process; 953 were endorsed by 288 different colleges and universities; and 238 applicants from 86 colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition.
As a former foster youth, and queer first-generation low-income student, Fierceton works to uplift the voices of her communities through her academic, professional, and personal pursuits, including her capstone thesis on the foster care-to-prison pipeline and her youth-centered community organizing work.
Fierceton is a Civic Scholar and has served as a leader within the Civic House community throughout her Penn career with a commitment to civic engagement, social justice, and service. Outside of Penn, she is a policy fellow for Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym, and she is a volunteer birthing doula with the Philadelphia Alliance for Labor Support.
At Oxford, Fierceton plans to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in social policy. Upon returning to Philadelphia, she intends to continue her career in public service.
Fierceton applied for the Rhodes Scholarship with assistance from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. The award brings the number of Penn Rhodes Scholars to 31 since the Scholarship’s inception in 1902.