Penn senior and May graduate win 2020 Rhodes Scholarship

Nurul Ezzaty Binti Hasbullah (left) and Stephen Damianos
Penn senior Nurul Ezzaty Binti Hasbullah (left) and May graduate Stephen Damianos have been named Rhodes Scholars to attend Oxford University. 

AUniversity of Pennsylvania senior and a May graduate have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study at the University of Oxford.

Penn’s newest Rhodes Scholars are senior Nurul Ezzaty Binti Hasbullah from Selangor, Malaysia, and May graduate Stephen Damianos from North Hampton, New Hampshire. 

“All of us at Penn are incredibly proud of our newest class of Rhodes Scholars,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Each shares a passion for engagement and embodies the finest attributes of Penn scholars who are working to make a profound difference in the world. Each is truly deserving of this preeminent recognition.” 

“Ezzaty is passionate about social impact and has dedicated significant time and energy to reducing education inequality in Malaysia, while also participating in and organizing numerous international volunteering initiatives,” she said. “Stephen has dedicated himself to the cause of empowering refugees and is now studying the integration of refugees into formal labor markets and rights-based approaches to international development, with plans to attend law school.” 

The Rhodes is highly competitive and one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. The scholarships provide all expenses for up to four years of study at Oxford in England. 

According to the Rhodes Trust, 100 Rhodes Scholars will be selected worldwide this year, chosen from more than 60 countries around the world. Several have attended American colleges and universities, but are not U.S. citizens and have applied through their home country, including Binti Hasbullah in Malaysia. 

Damianos is one of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars chosen to represent the United States. This year more than 2,900 American students began the application process; 963 were endorsed by 298 different colleges and universities; and 236 applicants from 90 colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition.

Nurul Ezzaty Binti Hasbullah is completing her bachelor’s degree in health and societies with a concentration in global health and a minor in anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences. At Oxford, she will pursue a master’s in social data science followed by a master’s in public policy. She wants to find ways to reduce social inequalities along class and gender lines. 

At Penn, Binti Hasbullah has served on the Muslim Student Association board and Dining Advisory Board and currently co-chairs Rodin College House’s community service programming team as resident advisor. The recipient of a premier scholarship from the Malaysian government, she has also received Penn Alumni’s Association of Alumnae Rosemary D. Mazzatenta Scholars Award for her community service. She also received the Seltzer Family Digital Media Award.

She has been a volunteer in projects near and far, including collecting health data in Guatemala, tutoring refugee children in London, participating in relief efforts in Warsaw, and painting murals with school children in West Philadelphia.

Stephen Damianos graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the School of Arts and Sciences. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in development studies at the University of Cambridge. He plans to attend law school and eventually work at the intersection of forced migration, labor policy, and human rights. At Oxford, he hopes to earn a doctorate in migration studies with a focus on development.

While at Penn, he was the founder and president of Penn Undergraduates for Refugee Empowerment which connects students with refugees, providing support such as academic tutoring and translation. Damianos continues to work with Penn’s employment administration and with refugees through Philadelphia resettlement centers. 

Damianos is a 2018 Truman Scholar. He was selected as a Dean’s Scholar and received the Sol Feinstone Award, James Howard Weiss Memorial Award, and Robert Holtz Memorial Prize for Excellence in Political Science and conducted independent research as a Perry World House Student Fellow

Binti Hasbullah and Damianos applied for the Rhodes Scholarship with assistance from Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. The awards bring the number of Penn Rhodes Scholars to 30 since the Scholarship’s inception in 1902.