Education alumna named Rhodes Scholar

January 2, 2020

Anna Esenther, a 2019 Michigan State University education graduate and elementary teacher, was named to the 2020 class of Rhodes Scholars.

She is only the 20th person from MSU to receive the honor, arguably the most prestigious international scholarship one can earn.

Anna Esenther teachers in a classroom
Anna Esenther is a first-grade teacher in Buckeye, Arizona.

Esenther is originally from Ashland, Mass. and came to MSU as a recipient of the University Distinguished Scholarship, which is awarded based on high academic achievement and covers full tuition and room and board.

She was part of the Honors College and earned her bachelor’s in elementary education, as well as history, statistics, psychology and economics.

“I wanted to learn everything. But education was definitely my first and longest interest. I wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade myself,” said Esenther, who is now teaching first grade in Buckeye, Ariz. “I love my class. I feel like I have an important opportunity to do the best I can for them, which is really, really difficult.”

Just 100 of the world’s most outstanding students earn the opportunity to study at University of Oxford in England as Rhodes Scholars each year. Starting next fall, Esenther will pursue her master’s in economics at Oxford, but keep her focus on education.

“I’m interested in how the tools of economics can be applied to the field, especially econometrics and data analysis, to learn how we can improve outcomes for children.”

She is particularly interested in how trauma affects children’s education and the various forces at play in the teacher labor market.

Anna Esenther headshot
Anna Esenther

As part of the College of Education, Esenther worked on a study of elementary math instruction under Associate Professor Kristen Bieda. “That was my introduction to education research, and what first sparked my interest.”

She also was a member of the Global Educators Cohort Program, which helped her explore other cultures and backgrounds in the context of teaching. She traveled to Ghana as a recipient of the Dean’s Study Abroad Scholarship.

“Education is a space where people can make a big difference, not only in the lives of young people but in the future of our world,” said Margo Glew, director of GECP. “I think Anna really embodies that goal of our program.”