Maleelo Shamambo ’20 Receives Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize

A woman in a red shirt stands in front of a stone building

The Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize is awarded to the graduating senior who best exemplifies the spirit of the liberal arts and affirms the college’s mission in their intellectual expression and self-reflection. It is the college's highest academic honor. This year’s recipient of the Rhodes Prize is Maleelo Shamambo ’20.

As a neuroscience major and French minor, Shamambo pursued a wide range of academic interests that reflect the breadth of liberal arts. Among her many pursuits, she conducted research on the neuroscience of hearing loss as a St. Jude Summer Plus research fellow; served as a supplementary instructor for the Introductory Biology II lecture course; investigated post-colonial Western Africa movement to reject the influence of European colonizers; and designed a 10-day language immersion experience in coordination with one of her professors to complement her French studies. The intersection of Shamambo’s passions are evident in the project she will pursue next year as a Watson Fellow.  Specifically, Lelo aims to "reconcile her African heritage and scientific education in a way that ensures agency over what we consider ‘ours,’ while also verifying it empirically."

Lelo's professors noted that she is characterized by “her drive to learn, her integrity, her self-motivation and inquisitive nature.”

"Similarly, our committee witnessed these traits as she reflected on the liberation found in exploring the unknown. Whereas textbooks offer 'answers' with apparent certainty, Lelo noted that the process of conducting and analyzing original research inherently requires us to acknowledge we do not have all of the answers. In turn, she argued that we must approach each endeavor with curiosity, a willingness to ask questions, and an aim to understand the perspectives of others," says Phi Beta Kappa president Professor Geoff Maddox.

The award will be presented at an in-person commencement ceremony at a date to be determined. Rhodes will celebrate its graduating class virtually on May 16, which will stream live on