Penn junior Chinaza Ruth Okonkwo named a Beinecke Scholar

Student standing on marble steps
Junior Chinaza Ruth Okonkwo has been awarded a 2021 Beinecke Scholarship to pursue a graduate education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. A philosophy and history major, Okonkwo is one of only 16 Beinecke Scholars chosen this year from throughout the United States. 

University of Pennsylvania junior Chinaza Ruth Okonkwo has been awarded a 2021 Beinecke Scholarship to pursue a graduate education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Each 2021 Scholar receives $4,000 upon completion of undergraduate studies and an additional $30,000 to support graduate study, with no geographic restrictions.

Okonkwo is one of only 16 Beinecke Scholars chosen throughout the United States, and the 14th recipient from Penn since the award was first given in 1975. Universities may nominate only one student, and this year there were about 100 applicants. This is the third consecutive year that a Penn student has been named a Beinecke Scholar.

Okonkwo, from Los Angeles, is majoring in philosophy and history with concentrations in moral and political philosophy and world history in the School of Arts & Sciences. She is also pursuing minors in Africana studies; gender, sexuality, and women's studies; and Native American and Indigenous studies. She sub-matriculated into the philosophy master’s program and will be receiving her master’s degree along with her bachelor’s degree upon graduation in 2022.

At Penn Okonkwo is a Mellon Mays Research Fellow, a Perry World House Student Fellow, a Robeson Cooper Scholar, and a Benjamin Franklin Scholar. She is an editor for the Penn History Review. She is also a Benjamin Franklin Scholar Peer Mentor and a Research Peer Advisor for the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

She is a member of the Student Committee for Undergraduate Education and a board member of the Coalition Against Fraternity Sexual Assault. Previously, she was a vice president in the Penn Government and Politics Association and an outreach volunteer coordinator for Penn Leads the Vote. She also founded a radical reading collective called The Black Radical Tradition.

Okonkwo identifies as a first-generation, low-income student and has done extensive research across the humanities and social sciences throughout her time at Penn. Her current independent research project on Igbo philosophy aims to re-shape the understanding of indigeneity as it relates to the African continent. Okonkwo intends to pursue graduate study in philosophy or social/modern thought.

The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 by the Board of Directors of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company to honor Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke. The program seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students, selected on the bases of academic excellence and financial need, to pursue opportunities and to be courageous in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Okonkwo applied for the Beinecke Scholarship with assistance from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.