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Eastern Kentucky University senior Nick Koenig recently competed as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most celebrated award for postgraduate international study. Recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship study at the University of Oxford in England with all expenses covered for several years. Only 32 American students were chosen as winners, and while not ultimately selected as a 2021 Rhodes Scholar, Koenig’s participation in the final stages of the competition on Nov. 21 is still an historic achievement for an EKU student.

He is EKU’s first student to reach the interview stage of the competition. 

The Rhodes Scholar selection committee receives hundreds of elite applicants annually. They are judged on academic achievement, integrity, leadership ability, inclusivity, and the energy to use their talents. Koenig said he is grateful for the experience as a finalist. “I met 15 fantastic students from around the nation that I now consider friends and colleagues.”

Koenig is a Biology major and part of the EKU Honors Program ( 

Koenig’s landmark accomplishment is the latest in a long list of honors. He is also a 2019 Barry Goldwater Scholar, a 2020 DAAD RISE German Research Internship award winner, and a 2020 recipient of “honorable mention” distinction for the nationally competitive Udall Scholarship. He also currently serves as the EKU student body vice president. Nick’s research is recognized nationally and he has received grants for his research work alongside EKU faculty. He has earned over $16,000 in grant funds and has given over 25 presentations at conferences. 

A Louisville native, Koenig is working on a degree in Biology (Botany Concentration) alongside four minors, and two university certificates. He is an advocate for social justice and inclusivity and has published 12 popular articles in newspapers/newsletters such as the Louisville Courier Journal, the Richmond Register, and the Eastern Progress. He is also a former United Nations Volunteer (Tanzania Development Trust), a Biology Department Tutor, Co-President of Green Crew, an Eagle Scout, a marathon runner and a pianist.

Dr. Randi Polk, EKU’s Coordinator of Nationally Competitive Awards, called Nick a “superstar” who will be missed greatly when he graduates next May. “Nick is one of the most unique and inspiring students I have taught and he has represented himself and EKU well! Nick is the first in his family to consider doctoral work and his humble nature and genuine interest in helping others succeed are traits that make him remarkable,” Polk said.