Christ Church DPhil candidate Serene Singh has been awarded the 2024–25 John Robert Lewis Fellowship. The prestigious fellowship, established by the Washington-based nonprofit Faith and Politics Institute (FPI), honours the legacy of the late US Representative and civil rights leader John Robert Lewis.
Born and raised in Colorado, Serene first came to Oxford to complete a Master of Public Policy at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. As a Rhodes Scholar, she is now completing her DPhil in Criminology at Christ Church. Her achievements beyond academia are equally impressive. Serene holds the National All-American Miss title for 2021–22, is the author of an award-winning children’s book The Queen Machine, and is the founder of The Serenity Project – a nonprofit dedicated to women’s empowerment. She has served as a Dalai Lama Fellow, has received a Diana Humanitarian Award, and was an Oxford Character Project Global Leadership Institute Scholar, working passionately to uplift the voices of Sikhs and women globally. She has even worked with Michelle Obama and the Girls Opportunity Alliance team, advocating for girls’ education.
Serene told us more about her research and what the John Robert Lewis Fellowship means to her: ‘My current doctoral research focuses on the material prison experiences of women on death row across the United States. I am passionate about using my voice and research to improve the justice system in the United States and to expose the realities of capital punishment and prisons to broader society. I was a little girl the first time I learned about John Robert Lewis and his civil rights activism, including his work alongside Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’
‘From that early moment, I recognised the profound challenge, as well as the importance, of transforming individual consciousness into broader societal awareness. To be selected for this fellowship means a lot to this adult version of myself but perhaps even more to that little girl who committed to follow the footsteps of the empathetic and courageous leaders who came long before.’
The fellowship also has deep significance to Serene as a woman of Sikh faith: ‘As a Sikh woman, I serve as the Graduate President of the Sikh Society at the University of Oxford and am the Founder of the Interfaith Alliance at Rhodes House. In these roles, I aim to share and educate others about my Sikh faith’s active practice of Ek Onkar, or shared Oneness and humanity. “Sikh” means “learner”, and my surname, “Singh”, translates to “courage”. My faith reflects a generational tapestry of justice and empathy, where challenging biases and fostering curiosity are intrinsic threads woven into the fabric of my identity.’
The Christ Church community would like to congratulate Serene and wish her all the very best in her future endeavours.
Learn more about the John Robert Lewis Fellowship via the Faith and Politics Institute website.