UNC Charlotte Political Science, Spanish Major Named Finalist For Rhodes Scholarship

Megan Bird, a UNC Charlotte senior from Charlottesville, Virginia, was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships. While she ultimately was not chosen as one of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars, announced on Nov. 21, her selection as a finalist is a significant achievement.

Levine Scholar majoring in Political Science and Public Administration and Spanish with a statistics minor, Bird also is an honors student in political science. Currently, she is researching how certain police characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity, affect an officer’s likelihood to use excessive force.

Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber, in endorsing Bird’s candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship, noted, the senior is “an intellectual powerhouse, able to think, speak and write fluently across the disciplinary areas of public policy, criminal law, data science, political science and journalism…The span of her research, teaching and internship opportunities demonstrate her energetic commitment to developing her abilities to the fullest so she can be an effective agent of change.”

For Bird, public policy issues transcend academic pursuit; she regards them as a “deeply personal moral obligation,” and advocates the use of data to improve decision making.

“Prudent political agents are those who adapt and develop strategies to escape systematic biases,” said Bird. “Settling for simplistic decision making is not a viable option in any area of public policy.”

Bird’s goals for her future studies is to “infuse my academic career with a social conscience … to use it for the defense and protection of others.”

Anticipating graduating in May 2021, Bird is actively engaged in a number of campus activities. She is in her third year as news editor for the Niner Times, the University’s student-run newspaper. She spent a semester as a teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and as a Levine Scholar Research Fellow with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Additionally, she interned with the firm Gilles Law PLLC and served as a summer research assistant in Brown University’s Political Science Department. Her community engagement includes serving as outreach coordinator for Health Care Justice UNC Charlotte and a project co-developer for Transforming Youth Movement.

Bird is UNC Charlotte’s second Rhodes Scholarship finalist in the past three years; Nemah-Allah Saleh ’18, who completed a bachelor’s degree in biology and was a Goldwater Scholar, was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship in 2017.

Established through the will of Cecil John Rhodes in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and considered by many to be the world’s most preeminent international scholarship program. It enables outstanding young people globally to undertake full-time postgraduate study at England’s University of Oxford.

Words: Phillip Brown