On the long list of former Penticton student Linda Worden’s academic achievements, this one tops them all.
She was one of 11 Canadians named this week as a Rhodes Scholar. The honour means she’ll next year join a class of 60 students from around the globe to work on her master’s degree at Oxford University.
Worden said in a telephone interview she was in “utter disbelief” when she learned of the award.
She’s currently majoring in political economy at Williams College in Massachusetts, and her research work on housing policy has already taken her to Vancouver, Brooklyn and London.
Once at Oxford, she’ll major in comparative social policy.
“My long-term goal would be to get involved with Canada’s national housing strategy,” she said, adding her primary interest is in communities, such as some First Nations, that don’t have access to housing.
Worden would certainly have the credentials to do it; the list of past Canadian Rhodes Scholars includes foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, former Ontario premier Bob Rae and former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams.
Molding such talent is at the heart of the Rhodes Scholar program.
“Our aspiration is to identify and support innovative, energetic and ethical young leaders worldwide, and we are delighted that once again there was such a strong selection process in Canada,” Rhodes Trust CEO Elizabeth Kiss said in a press release.
“Diversity is a core value of ours and one that we see benefit our cohort of scholars every day, as they learn from each other in profound ways.”
Worden’s ascension in the world of academia began in 2013, when she left Pen-Hi after Grade 11 to take advantage of an $80,000 scholarship to study at prestigious Pearson College on Vancouver Island.
From there, she moved on to Williams College, a private, liberal arts school that’s alumni includes eight Pulitzer Prize winners, a U.S. president and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Worden still travels back to Penticton on breaks to visit her family, but has also watched from afar with interest as the provincial and federal governments embark on massive housing programs.
“I do see that as a good thing,” she said. “I think it’s a bit too early to tell if it’s working because demand is so high and the prices are so high in the Lower Mainland, but it’s a step in the right direction.”