Mu brother Jay Ruckelshaus selected as Rhodes Scholar

“For decades, the Rhodes Scholarship has been the highest honor awarded to undergraduates — a recognition of extraordinary accomplishment and outstanding promise for the future,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “I am delighted that two Duke students have been chosen as Rhodes Scholars this year. Laura Roberts and Jay Ruckelshaus have immersed themselves in everything Duke has to offer and have made great contributions to this university. I know they will be exemplary Rhodes Scholars.”

The scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

Ruckelshaus is a political science major with a triple minor in philosophy, history and English. A member of Pi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa, he is a recipient of the Duke Faculty Scholars Award, and was a Lord Rothermere Fellowship recipient for study in political theory at Oxford’s New College during summer 2013.

“Jay Ruckelshaus is a highly principled thought and action leader who will excel in his insatiable pursuit of scholarship and public service leadership,” said Anthony Brown, professor of the practice in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “While Jay’s intellect and accomplishments are stunning, his greatest strengths are his moral compass and his passionate commitment to a life of public service leadership.”

At Duke, Ruckelshaus serves as a student member of the Duke University Board of Trustees’ Academic Affairs Committe, and as a senator in Duke Student Government. He is also co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of “Eruditio,” an undergraduate humanities academic journal; co-editor-in-chief of “Duke Political Science Standard,” Duke’s undergraduate political science academic journal; and associate editor of the “Duke Political Review.”

Ruckelshaus, who was paralyzed in a diving accident the summer before his freshman year, is the founder and president/CEO of Ramp Less Traveled, a nonprofit organization he created to support students with spinal cord injuries in pursuit of higher education. He advises the Shepherd Center advisory board on ways the rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta can improve the experiences of patient and their families. He is also a member of the U.S. International Council on Disability.

This summer Ruckelshaus worked as a Montgomery Research Fellow for the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, where he investigated the legal history of lunch counter sit-in movements during the Civil Rights era. The previous summer, as a research assistant under Herbert Kitschelt, George V. Allen Professor on International Relations at Duke, Ruckelshaus conducted research on ways of conceptualizing political party corruption around the world. He also has worked as an intern with the Indiana State Government, collaborating with senior staff in the Office of Governor Mike Pence to research policy focusing on mental health and the criminal justice system.

Ruckelshaus’s public advocacy work includes organizing a conference on higher education and accessibility that was attended by more than 80 students, administrators, academics and advocates from across the nation. He also is chair and director of operations for the Accessibility Matters Campaign, encouraging students to use only accessible routes around Duke’s campus for one day each April.

Ruckelshaus’s articles have been published in a number of publications, and he presented his paper, “Identity, Automony, and the Essentiality of Disability: Reconsidering the Medical and Social Models,” to the North Carolina Undergraduate Research Conference in November 2014.

“I’m absolutely stunned to have been named a Rhodes Scholar,” Ruckelshaus said. “I channel as much credit as possible to all those who’ve helped me get here, which is more than I could possibly name. Thank you to everyone! I embrace, excitedly and wholeheartedly and gratefully, the mission of the Rhodes Trust to fight the world’s fight, to push forward with political theory and advocacy to a more inclusive democratic future.”

Ruckelshaus plans to pursue a master’s of philosophy degree in political theory at Oxford.