YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ashley Orr, a Youngstown State University student from the small town of Columbiana, is the first YSU student and only the fourth ever from a public university to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.
The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, only 32 students from across the U.S. are chosen and those students will go on to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, with full financial support.
Orr completed against several Ivy League students for the scholarship and believes the award will change her life.
“I don’t think that you’re a Rhodes Scholar for the time you’re in Oxford, but you’re really a Rhodes Scholar for forever,” she said.
Orr’s resume is already impressive. She was named valedictorian of Columbiana High School’s class of 2012 and is now a University Scholar at Youngstown State, where she will graduate with a double major in mathematics and economics.
She has also studied at the London School of Economics and interned at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland.
According to The Rhodes Trust, which funds the Rhodes Scholarships, scholars are chosen, not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for “their character, commitment to others and to the common good.”
In that, Orr excels as well.
She has volunteered at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley and the Beatitude House and said she has a passion for helping the less fortunate in the community.
“I’m very, very passionate about using policy to lift people out of poverty,” she said.
The application process to become a Rhodes Scholar began in the summer. While in London, Orr visited Oxford and fell in love with it.
She also did well on the Skype interviews.
“It was Halloween, because I was dressed up as a Jedi and volunteering at the Rich Center when I got the email that I was a finalist. And then I found out I got the Rhodes Scholarship at the interviews just last Saturday,” she said.
Orr is also president of YSU’s Student Government Association. Among her accomplishments — getting water bottle refill stations at the college.
In her office, you’ll find the most recent Jambar student newspaper — the headline touting her accomplishment of getting the world’s most prestigious scholarship.
“I’m supposed to bring one home for my grandmama,” she says.
And although she has received the prestigious honor, she remains modest.
“There’s two streams of people, and I would identify less with the very, very brilliant and more with those that work really, really hard,” she said.