"Whoa!"

February 11, 2021 - Dr. John Waller and Asia Siev

That was how Jasmine Jordan’s father, Jamon, responded to the news that his daughter had been selected as a Gates-Cambridge Scholar. Succinct, emphatic and brimming with pride. Jasmine’s mother, Annamarie, rushed joyously out of the room to make sure that her passport was up-to-date. They had good reason to be thrilled. Every year, several hundred of Cambridge University’s aspiring graduate students apply for just eighty Gates-Cambridge scholarships. No more than twenty-five are awarded to the entirety of North America. Combine these odds with how hard it is to secure a spot at Cambridge and you arrive at what may be Planet Earth’s most competitive graduate scholarship.

“Whoa!” indeed.

But Jasmine Jordan’s selection as a Gates-Cambridge Scholar surprised no one who has taught or mentored her while a Spartan. When the news came through, she had already been a national finalist for the globe’s other most-coveted awards: the Mitchell, the Marshall, and the Rhodes. Losing out at the final stages of these competitions, it was only fair that Jasmine netted her dream scholarship, an award created in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for students of ‘outstanding intellectual ability’ who can ‘build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.’ In Jasmine Jordan they could not have made a better choice.

Study Abroad Trip

A native of Detroit and alumna of Renaissance High School, Jasmine donned the Spartan green in 2017, an Honors College student majoring in Political Science and a member of the Social Science Scholars Program. Immediately, Jasmine engaged in the greater Lansing community and learned more about issues of social inequity through her courses and the Honors College’s HC IMPACT program. A thinker of rare clarity, a gifted writer, a courteous but tenacious advocate, and a fierce defender of civil rights, she soon made her mark.

By the summer of her junior year, Jasmine had been instrumental in the opening of a new allergen-free dining hall, published a research paper on the self-segregation of minority students in MSU dorms, given talks to hundreds of faculty, alumni and fellow students, was serving as both co-president of the Council of Students of Disabilities and Chief of Staff for a New York law non-profit, and was engaged in a major new research project studying the misrepresentation of minorities in US history high school textbooks, all while maintaining a perfect GPA. Asked how all of this was possible, Jasmine replied with her usual self-deprecating wit, “I guess I’ve never joined a sport,” though even that is not exactly the case because she has also found time for ballroom dancing and, as a Tower Guard volunteer, helping students with disabilities take part in sporting activities.

Volunteering with Tower Guard

Such a level of achievement is intensely demanding. After four years of juggling classes, research, clubs, jobs, and more, Jasmine reflects that “sometimes you get overwhelmed. Sometimes it seems like school is happening in the background of everything else you have to do, and you have to remind yourself, ‘you’re here for an education’.” But it is easy to see, after talking to her for a few moments, how Jasmine achieves this balancing act: she cares deeply about social justice on campus and beyond. And, when she feels stretched too thin, she is uplifted by a clear aspiration: “I want to go to law school and become a Civil Rights attorney. If I have the end goal in mind, I can get through it.”

Jasmine ascribes much of her passion for learning and for civil rights to the upbringing she received from her parents. “My father is a historian of black history, specifically black

history in Detroit, and my mother is a teacher,” she explains. “As their daughter, I really had no choice but to learn about issues of social inequity and absorb the value of education! Eventually I came to share my father’s fascination for the history of African American exploitation, resilience and activism, and my mother’s commitment to learning.” The result is a student who has devoted herself to learning as much as she can about America’s legacy of discrimination and the modern surge in the rates of African American incarceration, and who, in the words of one of her mentors, Dr. Terry Flennaugh, “is a truth-teller deeply committed to equity and justice and fearless even when speaking truth to power.”

Jasmine is also admired for her generosity of spirit. She talks of getting involved in campus movements and organizations “because I wanted to help someone or do something and then I just never ended up leaving.” Her mentors and peers often comment on her other-centered humanity and kindness. Dr. Bess German of the Honors College describes Jasmine as “one of the finest students, student leaders, and student advocates in our history at the Honors College and at Michigan State University.” “My favorite thing about Jasmine is her genuineness,” writes Jenn Arbogast, academic advisor to the Social Science Scholars Program, “She makes others feel heard and her kindness and infectious laugh have a way of boosting the spirits of those around her.” Fittingly, in 2018 Jasmine was made a university ‘Gupta Fellow’ in recognition of her commitment to ‘integrity, human dignity and excellence.’ Her success derives from the fact that in everything she does, these three virtues are combined.

Those who have taught and mentored Jasmine could not be happier for her. She is “the star of our university,” says Dr. Nazita Lajevardi, and will go on to do “outstanding work in Cambridge to develop a global perspective on the criminal justice system.” Ever modest, Jasmine told an interviewer at Wolfson College, her soon-to-be home in Cambridge, how much she owed to “teachers and faculty members and advisors.”

“I hope to make them proud,” she added. She has and she Will.