College of Science; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Two Upstate Honors College students named Rhodes Scholar finalists


Two Clemson University Honors College seniors are finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, marking the first time the University has had multiple finalists.

Each student aspires to make a great impact in their chosen area of study – public policy related to food insecurity for one and bioethics and medicine for the other.

“The Rhodes is recognized worldwide as the top undergraduate award for academic excellence,” said William Lasser, executive director of the Honors College. “Having two Rhodes Scholar finalists in one year is an extraordinary achievement.”

Veronica “Ronnie” Clevenstine, from Greenville, S.C., is majoring in economics with a minor in political science. She plans to study federal food assistance programs and explore the ways in which poverty and social exclusion are measured, operationalized, perceived and evaluated in the context of food assistance.

“The list of Ronnie’s accomplishments is staggering,” said Sarah Winslow, director of the National Scholars Program and senior associate director of the Honors College, “not just for its quantity, but for its coherence around a common goal – increasing access to basic needs while expanding the definition of what we should expect those needs to be.”

Louise Franke, from Spartanburg, S.C., is majoring in biochemistry with minors in political science and philosophy. She plans to pursue a joint M.D.-Ph.D. in bioethics and then practice as a physician while forging a career as a bioethicist in the public policy and academic realms.

“I have never had a student with such deep interest and such distinction across the disciplines,” said Adam Thomas, associate director of the Lyceum Program. “Louise is deeply interested in the human questions implicated in modern science and has prepared herself to answer them in a fully informed way.”

Clevenstine and Franke are two of about 1,000 students nominated nationwide, competing for 32 spots. Rhodes Scholar finalists will be interviewed on Nov. 19 and 20.

Clemson has had four Rhodes Scholar finalists since 2006, but none has received the award.

“Clemson Honors has spent several years building the academic programs, experiences and opportunities that students need to be competitive for these major, international awards,” said Lasser. “This achievement is clear evidence of the impact of Clemson’s faculty and staff – across the University and in the Honors College – and of the hard work and dedication of Robyn Curtis, who founded Clemson’s Office of Major Fellowships in 2018, and of her staff.”

Rhodes Scholars are chosen on the basis of academic excellence; the energy to use your talents to the fullest; attributes such as truth, courage, kindness and devotion to duty; and moral force of character and instincts to lead.

The award provides financial support for students as they complete postgraduate degrees at the University of Oxford. The scholarship application – which includes eight letters of recommendation – reflects extensive experience in and out of the classroom in their chosen area of study.

Lasser said he is confident that both students would do exceptionally well in their studies at Oxford University.

“Ronnie and Louise are two of the best students – and people – I’ve taught in over 30 years at Clemson,” said Lasser. “It’s almost a cliché to say that students are going to change the world, but these are students who really will make that kind of a difference.” 

Ronnie Clevenstine

  • Economic Research Intern for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, where she provided research assistance on initiatives related to food insecurity
  • One of 12 students selected in 2018 for the National Scholars Program, Clemson’s most selective academic merit scholarship
  • Co-founder of Clemson’s Youth Scholars program, which pairs National Scholars as mentors to elementary and middle school students in a local Title 1 school
  • Former Co-executive director of Clemson’s Food Collective, where she led an initiative called Stories of Hunger, which sought to elevate the voices of food insecure students
  • Named 2021 Truman scholar and received the Matt Locke Leadership Award for outstanding leadership
  • Finalist for the 2022 Marshall Scholarship
  • Dixon Global Policy Scholar, Clemson University’s select policy program focusing on global policy issues

Louise Franke

  • Political Studies Fellow at the Hudson Institute, where she participated in rigorous study of politics and political philosophy
  • Dixon Global Policy Scholar, Clemson University’s select policy program focusing on global policy issues
  • Lyceum Scholar, one of a 10-student cohort that takes a political philosophy class each semester and partakes in biweekly Socratic sessions with a professor of political philosophy
  • President Pro-Tempore, Undergraduate Student Senate, serving as second in rank in the Senate body and Chair of the Driving Committee
  • President, T.S. Eliot Literary Society, a literary society dedicated to studying world literature in a salon-like setting
  • Student Ethics Commission Representative, where she serves on the student commission to the Rutland Institute of Ethics, representing the College of Science
  • Student researcher within the Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center (EPIC) at Clemson University

Major Fellowships

Students interested in the Rhodes Scholarship or learning about other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or

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