Knox pursuing passion at dream school

Jennifer Knox’s childhood dream wasn’t something vague like “be a doctor,” it was short and very specific—attend Oxford University in England, a dream which came from her reading of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as a child. It wasn’t the right fit for her when she was choosing a college, but now, after graduating from Cornell College on May 11, she’s headed to study at Oxford’s prestigious graduate international relations program.

Jennifer Knox ’14 is going to study international relations at Oxford University in the fall.
Jennifer Knox ’14 is going to study international relations at Oxford University in the fall.

“I’m excited that this place I used to daydream about fits my interests and goals today,” she said.

Knox, who’s from Richardson, Texas, started her journey with a Cornell Fellowship at Global Zero, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating the world’s store of nuclear weapons. During her sophomore year, John Gruber-Miller, classics professor and one of her advisors, suggested the Cornell Fellows program might help her get meaningful experience in international relations while attending school in Iowa.

She found Global Zero, and something just clicked. She’s passionate about nuclear policy. So passionate, in fact, that after her fellowship she came back to Cornell and founded a student Global Zero chapter. And the organization took her to Brussels for an international conference, where she advised other students about founding a chapter.

Knox double majored in international relations and classics, and she credits her two advisors, politics Professor David Yamanishi and Gruber-Miller, along with classics professor Phil Venticinque, with pushing her to succeed.

“My professors were excellent, and they’ve been instrumental in my success inside and outside of my disciplines,” she said. “They taught me that success isn’t a given, but that trying and failing leads eventually to success.”

Two blocks of her senior year were spent preparing an honor’s thesis in international relations, “Structuring a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East.” She said that thesis, which gave her a taste of the kind of research she’ll be doing at Oxford, was good practice in using data to support a narrative.

The in-depth research expected of graduate students was one reason she chose Oxford over other schools where she was accepted, as was the fact that she’ll have a chance to get more varied perspectives than she would in the U.S.

So in the fall, she’ll be at the place she always dreamed of, studying the thing she’s most passionate about.

“There’s so much innovation happening in nuclear policy,” she said, “and it’s such a critical issue. There’s a lot of good that can be done.”