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Two UM Students, One Graduate Named Rhodes and Marshall Finalists

By Clara Turnage

University Communications

Jilkiah Bryant (left), Madeline Dotson and Brandon Kriplean are representing the University of Mississippi as finalists for prestigious Rhodes scholarships. Bryant is also a finalist for a Marshall Scholarship. All three are set to interview this weekend for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Two University of Mississippi students and one recent graduate have been named as finalists for the prestigious Rhodes scholarships. One of them is also a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship.

Jilkiah Bryant, who graduated in 2023 with a degree in public health and health sciences; Madeleine Dotson, a senior majoring in economics, Arabic and political science; and Brandon Kriplean, a senior international studies major, will interview this weekend for one of the coveted positions as a Rhodes Scholar. Bryant also is a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship.

“These are the highest and most prestigious awards out there,” said Vivian Ibrahim, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “This is incredibly exciting.” 

The Rhodes Scholarship allows students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom to complete their master’s or doctoral degree. UM has produced 27 Rhodes scholars, the most recent being Arielle Hudson, of Tunica. Hudson was the university’s first female Rhodes recipient.

The Marshall Scholarship funds two years of American students’ study in master’s degrees of their choosing in the United Kingdom.

“Our three finalists are remarkably different,” Ibrahim said. “They truly fit into the ideals of the Rhodes Scholar, but in very different ways.” 

Bryant, of Macon, won a prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2022 and was a CEED Scholar, Luckyday Scholar and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors Scholar during her time at Ole Miss. Though she initially came to Ole Miss as a pre-medical student, Bryant said she found a passion for public health during her studies.

“During the summer of COVID, I took a community health class, and it made me realize I didn’t want to be on the side of medicine where I saw people when they were already sick,” she said. “I wanted to be on the preventative side. I want to put structures in place that prevent those things. 

“I want to be someone who fights for the rights of people to have health care, to lead healthy lives.” 

Following that passion, Bryant coordinated health fairs in rural Mississippi in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic to widen access to vaccinations and founded Project Powerful, an organization that pairs high school students with volunteer opportunities across the state and organizes philanthropic efforts.

“I really want to work on the community level,” she said. “Working at the community level, you impact the people who are the most in need. That’s how you reach the most people.” 

If selected to be a Rhodes Scholar, Bryant said she would like to earn a doctorate in social intervention and policy evaluation. 

“Jilkiah, she is someone who is from Mississippi and understands what the problems are,” Ibrahim said. “She wants to come back and address the problems of her home state.”

Dotson, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, said her proximity to the coast instilled in her an interest in water governance from an early age. As a Rhodes Scholar, Dotson said she would like to earn a Master of Philosophy degree to better understand water science and management.

“I’ve always been pretty cognizant of water issues, whether it being issues with drinking water or how natural disasters can impact a coastal environment,” she said. “I think it was always in the back of my mind, but being here at Ole Miss, I’ve gotten to explore that interest a little further.” 

Dotson, the university’s 18th Truman Scholar, is also a Stamps Scholarship recipient, a 2023 Critical Language Scholar and a two-time National Security Language Initiative for Youth recipient. Dotson has studied extensively in Morocco and said she hopes to one day work in the Environmental Protection Agency’s water division.

“Madeline has the incredible ability to bring community together,” Ibrahim said. “She embodies the notion of wanting to get things done while caring about the science and scholarship behind it.”

Kriplean, from Franklin, Tennessee, said being selected as a Rhodes Scholar would allow him to continue his research into the intersection of religion and politics. Kriplean hopes to study the United Kingdom’s potential banning of conversion therapy, a move that has been discussed for years but never made.

“The U.K. has been talking about banning it for five years and hasn’t done it,” he said. “It’s an interesting way to see how religion plays a role in political decision making.

“How can we protect parents’ rights while also not having kids suffering from depression and anxiety and stuff like that? Why don’t we ask these big questions and explore in a way that doesn’t cause physical damage to each other? It’s a very hard line to walk.”

Kriplean has studied abroad at Blackfriars Hall, part of the University of Oxford, and did mission work in Kenya and Uruguay. Though he is no longer religious, Kriplean said that coming from a background of Christian faith gives him insight into these problems.

“Brandon is one of those unique people who is in pursuit of knowledge,” Ibrahim said. “He’s in search of truth, whatever truth means.” 

The Rhodes Scholarship recipients will be announced on Saturday.

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