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Hard work pays off: Western student awarded top honour with Rhodes Scholarship


Western University student Levi Hord was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, with her research focusing on transgender academia and theory. Past recipients of the Scholarship include former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Jen Doede | Interrobang | News | December 4th, 2017

Western University student Levi Hord has been awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in the U.K. for two years. According to a CBC article titled, “Western University transgender studies student awarded Rhodes Scholarship”, Hord is the 23rd University of Western student to receive a Rhodes scholarship in the school’s 110-year history.

“When I found out that I got the scholarship, it was like my entire horizon had just expanded in terms of what I would be able to accomplish in grad school,” Hord said.

Hord explained that the application process for the Rhodes Scholarship is a rather long and stressful one. Hord began writing the 1,000 word personal essay during the summer and had to submit a two-page CV, which included all the community, academic work and advocacy work they had completed, as well as six letters of references. Subsequently, Hord had an interview with the University of Western in order to receive their endorsement for the application. According to Hord, 12 individuals from Ontario are selected from a panel of finalists for the scholarship and are invited to Toronto for an interview. Early last week, Hord received a phone call informing them that they were one of the two Ontarians to receive a Rhodes Scholarship this year.

Hord explained that they originally wanted to pursue creative writing at university, but found their passion for theory and academia while taking a first-year women’s studies course.

“I took a class in first-year and realized how the theory and the work that was going on behind the scenes of academia for queer and trans people was really enabling the types of activism that we see going on,” Hord said.

Hord’s research primarily focuses on transgender theory within academia. One of the early projects conducted by Hord focused on gender-neutral language. “The project looked at a comparison between English, Swedish, French and German to see if people’s experiences were varying based on the linguistic structure of the language. French and German have grammatical gender, which is a part of everything from their nouns to their adjectives. If somebody wanted to speak neutrally about themselves or somebody else in French, there was a lot less linguistic room to do that,” Hord explained. “I wanted to do a study on that to see whether or not people’s lives were actually being affected, or their ability to express their identity in a way that made them feel good was different based on the language they spoke.”

Hord’s current studies focus on the philosophy of gender, asking questions surrounding the notion of gender authenticity in transgendered narratives.

According to a Western University media relations press release, Hord plans to do a double masters while at Oxford, which mean two degrees. One degree will be in women’s studies, while the second will be either in political theory or with the Internet Institute at Oxford. They will also continue with some advocacy work.

In regards to community volunteering and advocacy, Hord explained that they have been active in the LGBTQ+ community since high school and have done a lot of public speaking. Currently, Hord participates in literary activism as a board member that runs the London Poetry Slam. Hord is also an executive board member for the organization Lesbians and Gays Support Refugees, which raises funds in order to bring LGBTQ+ refugees from places where their lives are being threatened, to London.

In addition, Hord volunteers at a cemetery helping restore gravestones. “[Working at the cemetery] seems a little disconnected from everything else I do, but it is a really important part of how I have learned to approach people who are going through really difficult things,” Hord said.

“To have the opportunity to go to Oxford and to study with people who are just as passionate as I am [and] engaging with other perspectives means the world to me and I can’t wait,” Hord said.
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