Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

DDHR Graduate Hera Jay Brown Is Named Rhodes Scholar

The faculty of the Disasters, Displacement and Human Rights Program (DDHR) would like to honor and celebrate our remarkable student, Hera Jay Brown, who was named a 2020 Rhodes Scholar on November 23, 2019. She is the first transgender woman to be named a Rhodes Scholar and the ninth graduate in the history of the University of Tennessee to win this prestigious honor to study at Oxford University.

Hera was drawn to the DDHR program in Anthropology to focus her interdisciplinary major in sociocultural anthropology and forced migration studies, where she was carefully mentored by DDHR director Dr. Tricia Hepner and further guided by Dr. Rebecca Klenk and Dr. Raja Swamy. At Oxford, Hera Jay plans to work at the intersections of sociocultural anthropology, forced migration, law and public policy, and the critical study of humanitarianism.  

Hera Jay’s scholarly interest in refugees, and her commitments to social justice and human rights, motivated her work at home and abroad. At UT, she served on the executive board of a campus sexual empowerment and awareness group (SEAT) and as the LGBTQ+ Policy Intern at the Biden Foundation in Washington DC. During two years of study abroad in Amman, Jordan, she carried out original fieldwork in the King Hussein bin Talal Development Area, a special work zone established for refugees from Syria. In Berlin, Germany, she was a volunteer translator and cultural advisor for a community organization serving Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, and became an intern with the Middle East Collective (founded and directed by UT alumna Whitney Buchanan). Following graduation she took a fellowship at American University in Cairo as a Presidential Associate, and then returned to the US to work in Nashville, Tennessee as a refugee youth coordinator. She is currently a Fulbright-Schuman Research Fellow in the European Union, where she is studying the EU’s “golden passport” and citizenship-by-investment schemes within the broader context of EU refugee and migration policy. Her project includes research sites in Malta, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Lithuania. 

With respect to her training at UT, Hera writes, “As an undergraduate, finding the right mixture of support and opportunity in a program is vital; I could not have made a better choice than the DDHR program. It led to my fieldwork experiences with refugee communities in Berlin, Amman, and Cairo. Now, as a Fulbright-Schuman researcher in the EU, I find myself continuing to draw from these deep, instilled wells of knowledge, support, and experience provided by the DDHR program and its faculty.”


Read more about Hera Jay here:

The Guardian:

 New York Times:

 NBC News:

 UTK Campus News: