Two scholars win Bill Gates Sr Award 2023

  • May 4, 2023
Two scholars win Bill Gates Sr Award 2023

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars - Rumbidzai Dube and Bailey Weatherbee - have won this year's Bill Gates Sr Award

Two outstanding scholars have won this year’s Bill Gates Sr Prize in recognition of the way they exemplify the Gates Cambridge values. 

Rumbidzai Dube and Bailey Weatherbee have been selected for the prize which was established by the Gates Cambridge Trustees in June 2012 in recognition of the late Bill Gates Sr.’s role in establishing the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, being a Trustee and engaging with, and inspiring, many generations of Gates Cambridge Scholars.

The award, announced at the graduation dinner on Friday, allows Scholars to recognise the impact and contribution to the Scholar community of one of their peers, with particular reference to the Scholarship’s selection criteria. Scholars are asked to nominate a fellow Scholar for the Award by completing a statement about why that Scholar would be a suitable recipient. Selection was on the basis of how well the nominated candidates met the selection criteria while in residence in Cambridge. It is the 11th time the award has been presented since Rajiv Chowdhury [2009], now Professor and Chair of Global Health at Florida International University, won it in 2013.  On five of the previous occasions it has been shared by two scholars and on one occasion by three. 

Rumbidzai Dube

Rumbidzai [2019], who is doing a PhD in Politics and International Studies, has been recognised for both her academic brilliance and for her contribution to transforming the University of Cambridge’s policy, practice and approach to equity, diversity and inclusion [EDI]. 

Between October 2019 and October 2022, she was the President of the Black Cantabs Research Society and worked across the university to improve diversity and inclusion. For example, she worked with Cambridge Libraries Decolonisation Working Group to improve library resource access for Black and minority ethnic students. She also advocated for wider access to Cambridge library resources.

Through the Black Cantabs, Rumbidzai played an important role in the launch of three new University initiatives that have been named after prominent Black alumni whose histories were uncovered by the Society: the Alexander Crummell Fund which provides ongoing support for anti-racism work at the University; the Gloria Carpenter Lecture which focuses on efforts to make Cambridge a more equal space; and an annual George Bridgetower Essay Prize on race equality.

She also fundraised £60,000 towards establishing a post-doctoral position in the University dedicated to continuing the historical recovery work of the Black Cantabs Society. In recognition of her work, Rumbidzai was chosen by the University to accompany Professors Henry Louis Gates Jr, Kwame Antony Appiah and Wole Soyinka during the historic week the trio received honorary degrees in 2022. 

Other achievements mentioned in the nomination process included Rumbidzai’s work on  improving mental health care support for Black and minority ethnic students; on ending everyday racism in Cambridge; and on decolonising curricula, museums and librarianship. She has given multiple talks across the University and in 2021, she hosted a Seminar Series: Black Faces in Elite Spaces which interrogated the historical construction of elite academic spaces and reflected on how such spaces can be decolonised and radically reconstructed to foster inclusion. 

As part of her academic work, Rumbidzai, whose thesis focuses on the politics of territoriality in African regional politics, co-hosted a Seminar Series with the African Studies Centre titled “New Departures in African Political Studies”. The Series explored contemporary African politics through the contributions of Black and African scholars.

A scholar who supported her nomination stated: “Over my four years as a scholar, I have been consistently inspired by Rumbie’s outstanding intellect. Through our many conversations, I have learned much from her incisive insights into the complexities of African regional politics. All in all, I can think of no other scholar who better exemplifies the Gates Cambridge criteria!”

Bailey Weatherbee

Bailey [2019], who is doing a PhD in Developmental Biology, was nominated for her ‘outstanding intellectual ability, transformative leadership within the Gates Cambridge Scholars community, and track record of improving the lives of others’. 

Bailey researches pre-gastrulation human development using ex vivo and in vitro methods in Dr Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz’s Mammalian Development Lab and, by the end of her studies, will have published over 12 papers in top science journals such as Human Genetics and Nature Communications. She is the first author on five of these. After her first-year viva, her examiners remarked that she was one of the most productive first-years they had ever come across. 

Bailey was also praised for her leadership and commitment to helping others as part of various roles within Gates Cambridge community: as Community Officer on the Gates Cambridge Scholars Council she was a powerful advocate for the needs of chronically ill and disabled scholars. As Outreach Officer, she was committed to promoting the Gates Cambridge programme to underrepresented groups. And as a student representative on the Gates Cambridge Trust’s Equity, Diversity, & Widening Participation Taskforce, she gathered data on underrepresented groups within the University’s admissions process. 

A fellow scholar remarked: “Ultimately, Bailey’s commitment to improving the lives of others continues beyond her efforts within Gates: she has been a staunch advocate for social equity in her human embryo research, and has sat on the Department of Physiology, Development, & Neuroscience’s Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion Taskforce since 2020…she improves the lives of others that she sees every day. Bailey is someone who listens and fights for what’s right in our community. I can think of no other PhD scholar in our cohort who is more deserving of this award!”

*Picture: Rumbidzai and Bailey pictured with Mimi Gardner Gates.

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