A University of Pittsburgh graduate and Somerset, Pa., native has been named a 2012 Rhodes Scholar.
Cory J. Rodgers, 22, is among 32 U.S. recipients of the prestigious award for graduate study at Oxford University in Oxford, England. He plans to study medical anthropology and migration studies there beginning in October.
"I'm still taking it in," said Mr. Rodgers, who learned the news Saturday night. "Obviously, coming out of this and winning was amazing, but it was a really close run."
The first in his family to graduate from a four-year institution, Mr. Rodgers is also the fourth Rhodes Scholar since 2006 from Pitt, where he studied biological science, the history of philosophy of science and Africana studies.
Mr. Rodgers is currently working in Tanzania, Africa, on a project called "The Poultry Program for People Living With HIV and AIDS in Rwambaizi," which helps HIV-positive people raise free-range chickens as a source of food and income. Funded by the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, Mr. Rogers one of only three students in the U.S. to have received that honor.
With plans to work as a field clinician and a public health worker, Mr. Rodgers said his ultimate goal is to obtain a leadership role in the World Health Organization. He said he looks forward to attending Oxford to develop a comprehensive understanding of global health issues.
Mr. Rodgers started at Pitt as a biology major, intent on attending medical school right away. Though it was often difficult to articulate short- and long-term objectives as a undergraduate, Mr. Rodgers said his family's support for his changing career goals was steadfast.
"They trusted me with my decision and they supported me through that," he said.
Pitt Honors College Dean Edward Stricker praised Mr. Rodgers' curiosity and drive.
"He has sought opportunities, both at Pitt and abroad, in which he could explore disease modeling, administration of palliative care and health policy, and his graduate work in medical anthropology at Oxford will further that education," Mr. Stricker said in a statement.
During his week home for the holiday, Mr. Rodgers said he plans to spend time with his family and enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
He noted that he took his girlfriend to see the latest installment in the Twilight series Saturday night.
"It was mandated," he said.
Created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes, the scholarship program is a coveted award and widely considered among the world's highest academic achievements.