Tierrai Tull named 2024 Rhodes Scholar
Oxford University beckons for Bermuda’s 2024 Rhodes Scholar, Tierrai Tull, a member of the island’s Gender Affairs Council.
Ms Tull is also a cofounder of Bermuda Youth Connect, aimed at connecting the island’s young people with leaders.
The 22-year-old from Warwick, a student of culture and public policy, is still elated a week after learning she had been chosen for the prestigious honour.
She plans to use the postgraduate award to study at the University of Oxford and explore social sciences and humanities with “a focus on the intersections between gender and politics”.
Ms Tull is a senior at the University of Toronto, where she graduates in June.
She graduated from The Berkeley Institute in 2018 and attended United World College in Dilijan, Armenia. She spend the four years of her undergraduate career in London and the United States as well as Bermuda and Canada.
“It’s been a whirlwind adventure,” she said.
Ms Tull, who financed her Toronto studies with an array of scholarships, said she put herself forward for the Bermuda Rhodes Scholarship after she was encouraged by her professors.
“The prestigiousness of Rhodes is well known, so I scheduled ten mock interviews when I found out I had been shortlisted.
“None of the interviews made me any more confident walking into the interview room that day. I just wanted to ensure I controlled what I could and promised myself to surrender to all and find little things to enjoy throughout the selection experience.”
The scholarship, which marked its 120th anniversary this year, is awarded to one Bermudian each year.
Ms Tull said: “The Rhodes application and interview experience are decidedly rigorous and challenging, but in a magical way.
“I think every applicant comes out of the selection process changed and enriched.”
She got the call informing her of her success while taking her evening walk along the South Shore.
“The sun was setting beautifully and the water was calm. I was actually thinking about the interview — how I’d clarify my answers from some parts of the interview.”
After getting the call from Christie Hunter Arscott, the national secretary for the Bermuda Rhodes Scholarship programme, Ms Tull was “grateful, shocked and excited”.
She added: “I was so overcome with joy that I ran home in 15 minutes to share the news. That was almost a week ago and it still doesn’t feel real.”
She thanked the selection committee as well as the scholarship providers that had helped her on her way in college: AIG, RenaissanceRe, Butterfield Bank, Validus and UWC Bermuda.
Ms Tull said she was “shocked because Rhodes is the most competitive scholarship in the world and there were so many talented candidates whom I enjoyed meeting”.
She said her family were “incredibly supportive and happy”.
“They’ve had a front-row seat to my adventures over the years and they were glad that all the risks, hard work and discipline paid off for me in such a huge way.
“I also doubt they’ve been good at keeping this a secret in Bermuda because they are so proud.
“I’m happy I could bring them a feeling like that. Meanwhile, I’m preparing for final exams in Toronto.”
Ms Tull said that through applying, she had met “phenomenal people — either by reading their Rhodes stories, or directly asking for advice”.
She was inspired by the story of Eileen Lach, who in 1972 challenged the Rhodes Scholarship’s exclusion of women.
“She apparently used her time in front of the committee to argue that excluding women was discriminatory. Her boldness encouraged me to continue with the process, despite doubts, because I’m sure she had doubts walking into the room, so who was I to let my doubt stop me?
“These are the types of courageous people I look forward to connecting with. Also, coming from Bermuda, diplomatic connections are usually made through experiences like these — and I’m looking forward to balancing that and my love for school.”
Ms Tull is looking forward to immersion in the “brilliance, humanity and talent” at Oxford.
“Education is such a privilege, with the capacity to liberate.”
She hoped to “bring that liberation back home to Bermuda” with academic research into gender and race.
Asked for her advice to others, Ms Tull said: “Don’t self-disqualify.
“Yes, the Rhodes is intimidating but nothing worth having won’t scare you a little at first, especially young girls.
“Dare to dream and dare to achieve, and remain flexible so that if things don’t work out according to plan, your values and principles will continue to guide you.
“Also, seek connection with others; football and life are like that — you’re not playing alone, and other people can be your defence.”