Rhodes scholar accused of lying on applications loses scholarship
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KTVI) — A former Ivy League student who won one of the most sought-after scholarships in the world is accused of stretching the truth about her application.
The problem was that the sad story Mackenzie Fierceton told colleges and committees did not match the year of her life spent in foster care.
Fierceton was named Penn’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Penn and was working on a master’s degree in social work. The 23-year-old planned to use the scholarship to travel to Oxford to pursue a PhD. in social policy.
Fierceton beat more than 2,300 applicants from across the country to win the prestigious prize, which allows winners to study for free at the University of Oxford in England.
She won the scholarship, in part, because of her story. Fierceton said she grew up in the foster care system for children, bouncing from house to house and staying on friends’ couches because some of the living conditions were so bad.
Telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that she invested herself in her studies, she said: “School was always an outlet because I never felt like I had any control over my family life or on any other part of my life.”
“As a low-income, first-generation student and former foster child, Mackenzie is passionate about advocating for the youth of these communities through her academic, professional, and personal endeavours, dedicating herself to a life of public service,” wrote the University of Pennsylvania. President Amy Gutmann at the announcement of the award.
An investigation into his background by the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that his story did not match reality. They say a tipster contacted the Rhodes and Penn committee, calling Fierceton’s story dishonest. She actually grew up with her mother in a house on a tree-lined street in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. His mother had a very good job at a hospital in the St. Louis area, and Fierceton enjoyed hobbies like horseback riding.
Fierceton also changed his last name while in college.
There were a few other red flags. A 2020 profile in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows that she graduated in 2016 from Whitfield School in Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. Tuition for this institution is approximately $30,000 per year before financial aid. She told the newspaper that her foster homes were in Manchester, Clayton and Creve Coeur.
Fierceton spent a year in foster care. It was after an incident with his mother. But people investigating the case say her childhood wasn’t as hard as she claimed.
The Rhodes Committee recommended that Fierceton’s scholarship be revoked. In response, she withdrew from the honor. Penn also withholds Fierceton’s bending due to their concerns about the truth. Fierceton says the administrators are involved in a conspiracy against her.