Published: Nov. 24, 2019

Senior Jake Reagan has been named a 2020 Rhodes Scholar, becoming the second CU Boulder student to win the prestigious scholarship in as many years.

A Boulder native and honors student majoring in political science and Spanish with a minor in philosophy, Reagan learned of the award on Saturday following an interview in Salt Lake City. He shared the news by phone with his parents, his twin sisters who are also CU Boulder students, and his younger brother, who were gathered together in Boulder awaiting his call.

“It’s surreal,” Reagan said while waiting to catch a flight back home to Colorado on Sunday. “I just feel so deeply grateful to all of the so many different people who helped me get to right now. I feel so blessed.”

After learning he had won a Truman Scholarship last spring, Reagan said he wanted to dedicate his life to public service. A former student body president, he is the 21st CU Boulder student to win a Rhodes and succeeds Serene Singh, who last year became the first woman at CU Boulder to win the coveted award and the first CU student to win it in 25 years.

The CU Boulder Office of Top Scholarships supports applicants and recipients of the Rhodes and other prestigious academic scholarships.

“What an honor for CU Boulder to have back-to-back Rhodes Scholars,” said Deborah Viles, the office’s director. “Jake possesses a unique set of attributes that made him an excellent candidate for the Rhodes and the Truman. He is a highly accomplished student and a thoughtful young leader who has made a powerful impact on our campus and the broader Colorado community. We look forward to following his career and all he will accomplish in the future.”

Reagan, an accomplished jazz pianist and an avid runner and hiker who has set his sights on a career in politics, will receive a fully funded scholarship to pursue graduate studies in international relations at Oxford University starting next fall.

“Jazz is a conversation between musicians,” he said last spring after winning the Truman. “If people stop listening to each other, the whole thing falls apart. There’s dissonance and discord. It’s the same thing in politics.”

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, in a letter to the Rhodes selection committee, called Reagan “a remarkable young man with deep integrity, a clear vision, and the capacity for action that will allow him to continue to make a difference on campus, in the state of Colorado, and beyond.”

Among his other accomplishments, Reagan has worked to raise awareness about gun violence as well as the need for civil discourse, and his honors thesis focuses on the tone of American political discourse. He is the founder and president of The Dialogue Initiative, a student organization charged with bringing people of diverse perspectives together to discuss social, economic, cultural and political issues.

In a personal statement to the selection committee Reagan said, “An education of international institutions and policy alone is insufficient for reshaping our political tone. Forging meaningful relationships and developing myself as a leader is equally vital; and it is for this reason that I aspire to be a Rhodes scholar.

“Joining a cohort of individuals who share a dedication to public service, and with whom I can expand my understanding of the world and create a lifelong global community would not only provide the perfect environment in which to study international relations, but would help me become a better leader and more effective agent of change,” he said.

After completing his graduate studies, Reagan said he intends to return to Colorado “to take what I learned at Oxford and put it to good use in service of my state and my community.” 

Established in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most competitive academic scholarships in the world. Recipients are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership, according to the scholarship website.

Each year, 32 young students from around the United States are selected for the Rhodes.

CU Boulder students are encouraged to contact Office of Top Scholarships Director Deborah Viles at to explore scholarship opportunities.

Jake Reagan, 2020 CU Boulder Rhodes Scholar

Jake Reagan, an honors student majoring in political science and Spanish with a minor in philosophy, 2020 CU Boulder Rhodes Scholar

CU Boulder Tri Executives David Kidd Jake Reagan Olivia Wittenberg

Jake Reagan pictured with fellow CU Boulder Student Government tri-executives David Kidd and Olivia Wittenberg

Past CU Boulder Rhodes Scholars

  • 2019: Serene Singh is a Colorado Springs, Colorado, native and the first woman at CU Boulder to be named a Rhodes Scholar. Among a handful of Sikh Americans to garner the award, Singh is currently at Oxford working on double master’s degrees and aspires to one day serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • 1993: All Big Eight tackle and Colorado Buffaloes football captain Jim Hansen earned a doctorate in atmospheric physics and dynamics at Oxford and went on to become the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Marine Meteorology Division in Monterey, California.
  • 1938: Late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White was born and raised in Colorado and played football, basketball and baseball for CU Boulder, finishing as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1937. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother Clayton White, also a star Colorado football player who was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1933.