Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, December 13, 2000
Stanford student Roxanne Joyal named Rhodes Scholar


Stanford senior Roxanne Joyal, a 23-year-old international relations major, has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.

Joyal, who is studying at Stanford's program in Paris this quarter, plans to pursue a master's degree in development studies at Oxford. She said she intends to focus on the subjects of rural development and social change in Africa during her second year, when she will have more academic freedom.

The course of study reflects the Canadian native's interest in improving the status of women and children in developing countries. She has taken courses at Stanford on the subjects of poverty in developing countries and Africa in the 20th century, for example, and volunteered for six months in Bangkok in 1996 and seven months in Kenya in 1997. She also worked as an intern last summer at the World Bank in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The essay she submitted for the scholarship competition opens with a particularly poignant memory from her stint as a volunteer for the Human Development Center in Thailand, where she lived for six months in the Bangkok slum of Klong Toey:

"Nan was a three-year-old girl diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. I first met her sitting on the floor of the makeshift shelter she called home. She could barely lift her small shaven head, as the disease deprived her of the energy needed to make such a simple movement. . . . Nan made me realize the responsibility I have to make this world a more just and humane place for the over 2 billion people who live in absolute poverty."

Joyal, who transferred to Stanford after attending the University of Ottawa and York University in Canada, is a Canadian Rhodes Scholar. Canada awards 12 of the scholarships; the United States awards 32. A total of about 95 are awarded each year worldwide.

After returning from Thailand, she played a major role in developing Free the Children. The charitable organization, founded in 1996, aims to eliminate child exploitation around the world by encouraging young people to volunteer in programs and activities -- or to create their own -- helping underprivileged children.

Joyal is a founding staff member of the organization and its youth director. In this capacity, she has designed and organized courses on social issues and leadership that are taught in schools, communities and religious centers in Canada, the United States and Africa. She also has been involved in grassroots initiatives aimed at reducing poverty.

As a volunteer for the Gallmann Memorial Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya, Joyal established a cooperative with the aim of improving the social and economic status of women in the region of Laikipia. Women would make traditional crafts in their spare time and sell them in cooperative shops. Profits would supplement their family's income.

Joyal returned to the region in 1999 to conduct thesis research, sponsored by the office of Undergraduate Research Opportunities, on women and poverty. She found the research effort challenging, and says it has motivated her to ground herself more in academic study, especially in economics.

Joyal said she is particularly eager to pursue development studies at Oxford because of the university's Cross-Cultural Centre for Research on Women at the Queen Elizabeth House. The center sponsors research and holds seminars on gender and development issues.

"I am now happy to be able to study development in hopes that my actions in the realm of development will become more meaningful," Joyal said in an e-mail interview from Paris.

Among other activities, Joyal has co-authored You Can Change the World! A Children's Guide to Social Issues and won a Haas Fellowship for Public Service, a grant she used to coordinate youth "empowerment" programs in the greater Toronto area.

"She's incredibly bright, unbelievably energetic and has just a wealth of field experience for someone so young," said Walter P. Falcon, the Helen C. Farnsworth Professor of International Agricultural Policy and a professor and senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies. "Her book smarts are supplemented with field savvy. These traits combine to give her wisdom far beyond her years."

Richard Roberts, a Stanford history professor and the chairman of the Center for African Studies, said: "In my 20 years of teaching at Stanford, I have never met an individual who more centrally embodies the objectives of Rhodes scholarship than does Roxanne."