Aimee Clesi is a 2021 recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship. (Photo courtesy of Aimee Clesi)

UF student Aimee Clesi named a Rhodes Scholar

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Bill Clinton, Edwin Hubble, Rachel Maddow, Cory Booker, Susan Rice and Kris Kristofferson are all recipients of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

On Saturday morning, a junior at the University of Florida earned a seat at this elite table.

Her name is Aimee Clesi.

The Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford began in 1902 and is the oldest standing international scholarship program in the world. The acceptance rate is 0.7%.

In the history of the University of Florida, Clesi is the first woman and the 13th student to become a Rhodes Scholar-Elect.

“You have to know why you’re applying, why you’re the perfect fit for Rhodes. It is hard to apply, and it can be quite a daunting experience for most people,” said Kelly Medley, Clesi’s advisor in UF’s Honors College. “Aimee immediately struck me as focused – hyper-focused – with a truly unwavering determination.”

To qualify for this honor, Clesi needed to be endorsed by an institutional official, UF Provost Joseph Glover, receive eight additional recommendation letters, earn a GPA above 3.7, interviewed with the Rhodes Board of Trustees and, according to the Rhodes Trust website, be a person of, “outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”

“They asked me, ‘What did I learn from working at Harvey’s supermarket and Winn-Dixie?’” Clesi said. “They asked all the right questions. The questions that let them see me for who I am — a person who isn’t afraid to work.”

Clesi was born in Branford in Suwannee County, a town with a population of 711 people. She is a first-generation college student and drives an hour to and from school every day.

She wants people like her to know that “if you work hard, you can reach your goals.”

She encourages everyone to apply – regardless of one’s background, school, failures, successes and past. She believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to climb the mountains life puts in front of them.

Her life passion is “making things right and doing people justice.”

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I wasn’t awarded the Rhodes. How would I pursue the same project I had proposed? If Oxford was truly a part of my future, how could I make that happen regardless of the scholarship decision?”

The Rhodes Scholars Board of Trustees admitted Clesi after they learned of her strong will and passion to help wrongfully convicted persons and end the death penalty in legal systems. She plans to use her education at Oxford as the foundation for her career in advocacy and exonerations.

Clesi will graduate in summer 2022 from the University of Florida, having double-majored in philosophy and history, then plans to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in fall 2022.

At Oxford, she will work towards a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology.

About Sami Ewing

Sami is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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