Bertha Tobias Named 2024 Rhodes Scholar Elect
CMC senior Bertha Tobias was just named a 2024 Rhodes Scholar Elect. As a Namibian candidate, Bertha was one of 8 finalists from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, and eSwatini, all of whom competed for one Rhodes Scholarship. She interviewed in Johannesburg, South Africa, this past weekend and learned of her election on October 1. This marks the fourth Rhodes Scholarship in both CMC and Namibian history.
Bertha studies international relations and leadership studies, and she has a keen interest in natural resource management in developing countries. Her Rhodes Scholarship will fund her MSc degree in Sustainability, Enterprise, and the Environment. According to Bertha, the program scrutinizes the environment “through the lens of power, place, and politics,” delving into “how historical relationships between nations shape energy policy.” Bertha’s passion for energy policy emerged in college. “I initially perceived environmental literature as a ‘white people concern,’” she shared, stating that the way we discuss decarbonization does not account for people who would lose access to electricity if we were to decarbonize immediately. After taking environmental classes at CMC, Bertha says she “fell in love with the realization that decarbonization will look different in different countries.” At Oxford, she wants to understand how to implement an equitable energy transition.
In addition to her academic passions, Bertha has a knack for media entrepreneurship. Bertha utilized funding from CMC’s Sponsored Internship and Experience program to launch her own television show, “Spotlight.” She organized a production crew and interviewed Namibian entrepreneurs, sharing their success stories on Namibia’s largest broadcaster, NBC Namibia. At Oxford, she plans to collaborate with BBC Ideas, an Oxford-BBC partnership where scholars create short films about their research. “Opportunities like that are exciting,” Bertha says, because they allow her to “stay playful with media pursuits while making the most of an Oxford education.”
Studying in the United Kingdom will be a new experience for Bertha, but she is by no means new to cross-cultural learning experiences. Bertha grew up in Namibia, but she completed high school at United World College Changshu China before moving to the United States to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Bertha says she studies outside of her home country because she wants to understand how great institutions are built. “The United States, China, and the United Kingdom are all superpowers,” she says. “My biggest curiosity has been ‘What do they do right? Do they know something that we don’t about how to build systems and economies that last?’”
Giving back to Namibia is at the root of many of Bertha’s pursuits. Having spent so much time abroad, she believes there’s nothing fundamentally better about “superpower” countries compared to African countries. She emphasizes that hard work can be applied to any nation to achieve success, and she hopes to be a part of Namibia’s growth to global competitiveness.
Brian Davidson, CMC’s Director of Fellowships Advising, describes Bertha as “a force of nature with potential to be a truly transformative leader in Namibia and Southern Africa.” Brian believes Bertha is the embodiment of using one’s talents to the full, a core tenant of the Rhodes Scholarship. Reflecting on her resilience and ambition, Brian is sure the Rhodes Trust’s investment in her will pay off.
After securing the most distinguished scholarship in the world, Bertha feels immense gratitude. She calls the scholarship a “collective win,” crediting the continuous support of CMC, family, and friends. She extends special thanks to Ipawa Haimbodi, Vision Tobias, Professor Jennifer Taw, Professor Peter Uvin, Professor Michael Fortner, Brian Davidson, Freya Jennison, Justin Ongchin, Maureen Tchatchoua, Steve Wang, Ursula Diamond, and Michael Yu.