JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A Mississippi delta native is the latest to join the ranks of an elite international scholars club.
The Millsaps College senior is planning to make a difference but is making history in the process after being named a Rhodes Scholar.
For Millsaps College, Ericka Wheeler is a student they say comes around roughly every five years on average.
“They saw something special in me, enough to invest in me,” Ericka Wheeler, a 2016 Rhodes Scholar Elect, said.
Wheeler was one of two finalists from her college this year and her scholarship makes her the first African-American woman in the state to join the elite group.
“Right now, I’m still kind of just overwhelmed by it all. I remember saying I was hoping for it. I felt that I had what it took, but I didn’t know I was what they were looking for,” Wheeler said.
But she was exactly what the Rhodes scholarship committee was looking for.
“The course that she took with me when she was first a freshman, she stood out so much that by the middle of that fall course, I had already identified her as somebody that we should be grooming to try to get a Rhodes Scholarship,” Dr. Robert McElvaine , a Professor of History at Millsaps College, said.
Wheeler is the sixth Rhodes Scholar from Millsaps.
Kenneth Townsend joined the group in 2004. Over a decade later, he helped groom yet another Rhodes Scholar
“When I was selected, worlds opened up that I would never imagine possible…I grew up in rural Mississippi, and had never left the country and a whole new world was opened up to me and to know the opportunities that are available to Ericka it’s just tremendous,” Kenneth Townsend, a Special Assistant to President of Millsaps College, said.
Wheeler is studying to become a physician with an emphasis on educational and economical disparities, illiteracy rates and even racism.
“You know there’s this common saying that nothing good comes out of the Delta…I’m like a living testimony –that’s not true…we can do it too,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler plans to study Medical Anthropology at Oxford in England before returning to Mississippi for medical school.