Brilliant Mutsa wins Rhodes Scholarship

INDIANA, US – Field hockey’s senior defender Mutsa Mutembwa won the Rhodes Scholarship, becoming the fourth student- athlete from Indiana University to win the award to go to Oxford University.

Mutembwa earned a scholarship to go to University of Oxford, where she is allowed to take any Oxford course to complete her Masters.

All University fees are paid off by the Rhodes trust.

The scholarship could last for two to three years depending on the student.

Other US citizens like Sen. Richard Lugar and President Bill Clinton were also named Rhodes Scholars.

She is also the 14th student to earn the scholarship from Indiana University.

In 1970, William Wolfe, an IU football player, was the last IU student-athlete to win the scholarship.

Throughout the year she has shown leadership on the field, and helped the field hockey team make it to the first round of the NCAA tournament.

She double majored in economics and mathematics during her four years at IU.

Mutembwa plans to become a financial economist and return to her native country to help solve Zimbabwe’s tragic struggle with hyperinflation.

Winning the Rhodes Scholarship will help Mutembwa accomplish those goals in the years to come.

In October this year, Jeremy Gray of the Indiana University publication wrote, "At first glance, virtually everything about field hockey star Mutsa Mutembwa can be intimidating. She is tall, muscular, profoundly accomplished for her age, speaks with the coolest accent this side of Sean Connery, and is in possession of Jeffersonian intelligence. There are just not a lot of people like Mutsa Mutembwa walking around the local shopping mall."

But to meet Mutsa Mutembwa is to like Mutsa Mutembwa. She immediately disarms with a warm smile, a sly sense of humor, genuine humility and a palpable concern for the world and events around her.

In recent years, Indiana has had its fair share of totally unique and impressive student-athletes. Former quarterback Gibran Hamdan was one of them. Football’s Jammie Kirlew is another. Distance runner Jessica Gall certainly qualified. There are several that I have neglected to mention. But after a quick 30-minute conversation with her last week, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive young woman than Mutsa Mutembwa.

Mutembwa grew up in the politically tumultuous and economically troubled nation of Zimbabwe. Her father, Amman, is a diplomat, and her mother, Prisilla, was a field hockey star in a nation with a rich tradition in the sport. She grew up playing multiple sports, but excelled at field hockey. Her ability gave her the opportunity to play on the Zimbabwe U-21 national team, and her size and skill caught the eye of American college recruiters.

But her journey to Indiana was anything but conventional. Indiana’s head coach Amy Robertson had barely even seen her play. One of Robertson’s former assistants had successfully recruited some Zimbabwean student-athletes at Richmond. Together, they watched the Zimbabwe national team in action, and Robertson was able to have a conversation with Mutembwa after the game. Robertson left impressed with her size, but was more impressed with the way she comported herself and her evident strength of character.

Conversely, Mutembwa enjoyed her conversation with Robertson and was later impressed by the university’s Web site — I’m not making this up. Robertson began speaking with the family regularly and established a nice rapport with Mutsa’s mother. Priscilla Mutembwa wanted her daughter to get a first class education and wanted a coach who would take care of her daughter while she spent the next four years several thousand miles from home.

Amy Robertson and Indiana University fit the bill, and Mutsa Mutembwa enrolled the next fall.

Since her arrival she has been dominant on the field and even more impressive in the classroom.

In 2009, Mutembwa has already been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, and has helped lead the Hoosiers to a national ranking and a likely NCAA Tournament berth.

In the classroom, she is a double major in economics and mathematics. Next month, she will embark on a quest for the Rhodes Scholarship. After graduation, she plans to become a financial economist and return to her native country to help solve Zimbabwe’s profoundly tragic struggle with hyperinflation.

When discussing her professional aspirations, Mutembwa succinctly described the litany of issues currently facing sub-Saharan Africa. She discussed international trade, political corruption, the relationship between Africa and the West, and a whole host of issues with an alarming command of the subject matter.

Right now, Mutsa Mutembwa’s picture and brief biography are located in the field hockey media guide. I have a hunch that in 20 years, they will be in the ‘Notable Alumni’ section in all of the media guides.