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New Warden Announced - Dr Elizabeth Kiss

The Trustees have selected Elizabeth Kiss (Virginia & Balliol 1983) as the next Warden of Rhodes House.

Dr Elizabeth Kiss (pronounced “quiche”) comes to the Rhodes Trust after serving for twelve years as president of Agnes Scott College.  She received her B.A. in philosophy, magna cum laude from Davidson College, and she became its first female Rhodes Scholar, going on to receive a BPhil and DPhil in philosophy from Oxford.  After Oxford she taught at Randolph-Macon and Deep Springs Colleges and then for eight years at Princeton University, as well as holding research fellowships at Harvard and at Melbourne University in Australia. Her research focuses on moral and political philosophy and she has published on moral education, human rights, ethnic conflict and nationalism as well as feminist theory and justice.

From 1997 to 2006, Elizabeth served as the founding director of Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, building a university wide interdisciplinary centre focused on promoting moral reflection and commitment in personal, professional, organisational and civic life.  The Institute remains one of the country’s most active and respected university ethics centres. In 2006, she became president of Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts college for women in Atlanta.  During her tenure, Agnes Scott broke enrolment records and gained national recognition for diversity, success at graduating low-income students and environmental sustainability.  In 2015, Agnes Scott launched a signature programme, SUMMIT, providing every student with a core curriculum focused on global learning and leadership development.  Accolades for SUMMIT include a #2 Most Innovative School ranking by US News and the American Council of Education’s Award for Institutional Transformation. In December, the Chronicle of Higher Education named Elizabeth to its 2017 list of U.S. higher education’s most influential people.

Elizabeth has held many leadership roles in local and national organisations, including the Climate Leadership Network, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Women’s College Coalition. The former Vice Chair of the Davidson Board of Trustees, she is a current trustee of Duke University. 

She has always remained strongly connected with the Rhodes Community, having mentored Rhodes applicants for over 25 years and serving for 19 years on Rhodes selection committees, including six years as State Secretary in North Carolina.

Elizabeth will be the first female Warden of Rhodes House, a notable achievement that comes just after the remarkable 40th Anniversary of Rhodes Women which was celebrated across the globe and which culminated in an impactful convening in Oxford last September.

On her appointment, Elizabeth commented: “I am thrilled and deeply honoured to be given this opportunity to join Rhodes House at such an exciting time in its history.  Now more than ever, we need knowledgeable and courageous leaders from all walks of life who stand up for the world.  Thanks to its bold vision and dynamism, the Rhodes Trust is uniquely positioned to serve this need.  I look forward to building on the remarkable accomplishments of our current Warden, Charles Conn, and working to continue to expand the number and geographic reach of the Rhodes Scholarships, deepen the lifelong connections among Rhodes Scholars past and present, and enhance our impact through global partnerships including those with The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, the Atlantic Institute, and the Schmidt Science Fellows.  It will be a joy to return to Oxford and my husband Jeff and I look forward to getting to know the current Scholars, the University community, and Senior Scholars all across the globe.”

The Trustees would also like to express their deep gratitude to Warden Charles Conn, who has achieved many important milestones during his tenure. He has brought the Trust fully into the 21st century and secured its position as the world’s pre-eminent postgraduate scholarship programme. There will be other moments to reflect on the highlights during his tenure, and as previously announced, Charles will continue to serve the Trust two days a week with a focus on strategic partnerships, most notably the Atlantic Institute and the Schmidt Science Fellows, and international expansion. Charles commented: “I am extremely pleased that Elizabeth Kiss will be the next Warden of Rhodes House.  I have known Elizabeth for more than thirty years and have always thought very highly of her abilities and accomplishments, including the wonderful leadership programme she introduced at Agnes Scott.  I am confident that she will build on the recent strategic transformation of the Trust, as well as adding her own creative ideas and inspirational leadership to this role.”

Elizabeth will travel to Oxford to meet with current Rhodes Scholars in March, taking part in the first year Scholar retreat, which forms an essential part of the Character, Service and Leadership Programme. She will also start to meet with Senior Scholars and there will be a period of hand-over in the summer, followed by her taking up the role of Warden in August.