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Rhodes Scholarship goes to student and scholar of Turkish foreign policy

Sam Harshbarger
Denise Applewhite / Office of Communications

Sam Harshbarger ‘24 has been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford next fall. Harshbarger is one of 32 Americans to receive the prestigious scholarship and the only recpient from Princeton University.

With the choice of Harshbarger, the Rhodes program adds a student with a significant interest in foreign policy. Harshbarger shared in an interview with The Daily Princetonian that he applied to the Rhodes Scholarship because he “was interested in continuing [his] research on Turkey’s economic and political relationship with Azerbaijan and Central Asia in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

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Harshbarger said the moment he found out he won the prestigious award he “felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards the communities that have given me so much.” Specifically, he mentioned Cranbury, his hometown, Princeton, where he attended high school and college, and Turkey, a country that is the locus of his academic interests.

Harshbarger is fluent in Spanish and Turkish, with advanced proficiency in Azerbaijani and Russian. Harshbarger is a research assistant focused on Turkish foreign policy with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. In the past, he has also worked as an international affairs research analyst with Bechtel, an international construction and engineering firm; a research assistant with New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; and the Evergreen Strategy Group in Washington, D.C. Harshbarger frequently posts his international travel on his X account, with trips including the Balkans, the Near East, and South America.

He has written foreign policy analyses for the New Lines Institute, including a proposal for a US-Uzbekistan partnership and a breakdown of the challenges of a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, often with a globally pragmatic view of US engagement with the world.

A history concentrator, Harshbarger is pursuing three certificates: history and the practice of diplomacy; Near Eastern studies; and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. He will be able to continue these studies while obtaining a Masters of Philosophy in History on Oxford's Modern European history track.

He said that he was interested in the program in part due to the “top-notch faculty for History and Russian and East European Studies” at Oxford. He specifically referenced “Professors David Priestland and Zbig Wojnowski [who] have done work on subjects and time periods that closely match [his] own interests in Turkey and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and its aftermath.”

He received Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in Sept. 2022.

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Like Harshbarger, Marie-Rose Sheinerman ’23, Princeton's sole Rhodes Scholar last year, was a history concentrator and member of Terrace F. Club.

Sheinerman is the former Editor-in-Chief of the 'Prince.'

The Rhodes Scholarship, established through the will of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, is a fully funded, postgraduate award that allows students to study at the University of Oxford. Known as one of the world’s most distinguished academic scholarships, the Rhodes Scholarship is awarded to students who have “great ambition for social impact” and are “acutely conscious of inequities.” 

Even though he said was stressed during the application process, Harshbarger said it was “a valuable opportunity to reflect on and process what [he] had done over [his] gap year and at Princeton through the tumultuous period of the COVID-19 pandemic and the years since.” 

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After his two years at Oxford, Harshbarger plans to return to Istanbul — where he has spent every summer and winter break while at Princeton — to work as a journalist or in a think tank.

When asked for advice he would give current students, he said, “If you can afford to, take more risks. Ask questions, listen to, and feel empathy towards many different people. Learn a new language — it makes all of these things more rewarding.”

Justin Tam is a News contributor for the 'Prince.'

Please send corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com

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