A Mississippi State English and philosophy double-major from Vicksburg has been awarded the coveted Rhodes Scholarship.
University senior Donald M. “Field” Brown received what widely is considered the world’s most celebrated and prestigious international fellowship. He is a 2010 Vicksburg High School graduate.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum said that Brown’s selection as a Rhodes Scholar is a source of tremendous pride to the university’s students, faculty and staff.
“First and foremost, Field Brown’s selection as a Rhodes Scholar is a testament to his own drive and determination and the nurturing influence of his wonderful family,” said Keenum. “But it is also a resounding testament to the quality of scholarship, intellectual rigor, and encouragement that we strive to provide each and every student. This outstanding news makes for quite a Thanksgiving at Mississippi State University. We rejoice when our students succeed.”
Each year, 32 young Americans are chosen on the basis of demonstrated scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and the common good, and leadership potential.
Brown is MSU’s second Rhodes Scholar and the first since 1911. Other universities with Rhodes Scholars this year include: Harvard; Yale; Princeton; Villanova; Williams College; Wake Forest; Tennessee; Georgia Tech; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Wisconsin; University of Chicago; Washington University; Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Mississippi State, Brown said, has offered him the best undergraduate experience possible.
“I couldn’t be in a better position if I had gone anywhere else,” he said. He added that his professors have given him “concrete ways to be the best in my field.
“That’s all you can ask from a college education,” he said.
Brown also has studied English literature at Christ Church College in Oxford, England. According to the Rhodes Trust, Brown’s senior thesis focuses on Ralph Ellison and argues how politically radical novelists were forced to mute their political ideas to become visible and respected.
The scholarships are provided by the Rhodes Trust, a British charity established in the will of businessman and mining magnate Cecil J. Rhodes. The goal is to promote international understanding and provide full financial support for students pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Oxford, the first of its kind in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning.
Brown, the son of Willie and Cynthia Brown, said he is particularly interested in studying post-World War II African-American literature. He said both English and philosophy are related to his love of studying ideas.
“English is the narrative form; literature deals with everyday people and how they relate to ideas,” Brown said. “Philosophy is the systematic study of ideas, and the two go together.”
Brown said that, while the promise of continuing his studies at Oxford is thrilling, the reality of gaining the fellowship is life changing.
“So many great minds have walked the halls of Oxford, including tons of writers and a lot of important thinkers who have shaped the western world,” Brown said.
Brown said he plans to pursue masters of studies degrees in both American literature and modern English literature. Specifically, he is interested in trans-Atlantic interactions within literature, particularly how McCarthyism scare tactics of the 1950s and the Cold War affected which books were promoted.
Chris Snyder, dean of MSU’s Shackouls Honors College, said Brown has shown a commitment to doing extra work, taking risks and putting academics first during his tenure as a Mississippi State student. “Field is a burgeoning intellectual with great humility, faith and a strong family foundation,” Snyder said.
His parents both emphasized education to Brown and his older brother Willie Brown Jr., an MSU engineering graduate who was a Distinguished Scholar–the top honor awarded to entering freshmen. He went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology from the university before joining MSU’s nationally recognized Social Science Research Center.
In addition to discussing books together, Brown said his family often enjoyed watching “Jeopardy,” the long-running television game show in which contestants are tested on general knowledge.
Brown entered MSU after graduating third in his high school class and enrolled in the university’s Shackouls Honors College. He also came as an accomplished high school athlete–a ranked tennis player.
Snyder said Brown quickly became a leader in several campus organizations. In addition to co-founding “The Streetcar,” a literary magazine, Brown served as president of the Philosophy and Religion Club, was a member of the MSU Roadrunners student recruiting team and was active in intramural sports.
Brown credited Snyder and Thomas Anderson, associate professor of English and director of the Office of Prestigious External Scholarships, for his pursuit of a Rhodes Scholarship. He said in addition to assisting him with the scholarship process, the two professors have encouraged him in many ways, as have several other English and philosophy faculty members.