Q&A: NYU alum Zachary Fine talks his Rhodes Scholarship, art history

Zachary Fine, class of 2015, was chosen to receive the Rhodes Scholarship.

Zachary Fine is doing better than his name might suggest after he graduated NYU in 2015.  Following a grueling yearlong process, he was chosen as one of only 32 students nationwide to receive the Rhodes Scholarship.

Rhodes Scholars receive full financial backing to attend the University of Oxford for two or three years and fully immerse themselves in academia — without the pressures of graduate school, internships or jobs.

WSN sat down with Fine to talk about how he got to this point and what the future holds for him.

WSN: Where do you call home?


ZF: I am from New Orleans, and I will always feel deeply for the place. A year after Hurricane Katrina, I decided to start attending boarding school in Massachusetts, because things looked pretty dire in New Orleans at the time. At boarding school, I met an amazing professor named David Fox — he first introduced me to the study of art history, and he single-handedly, — during my junior and senior year — kindled my love for the discipline.


WSN: How did you choose NYU?

ZF: I applied Early Decision to NYU and didn’t apply to any other college because of the art history department. I took art history in high school and was really passionate about it, so I wanted to go to a school that had a rigorous art history program with strong faculty, and NYU had that.


WSN: How did you develop your concentration in art history and philosophy at NYU?

ZF: I was really interested in a lot of questions that kind of reached beyond the purview of art history, in its more traditional iterations. I was not only interested in fine arts objects, but I was also interested in visual culture. More broadly, my work looks at images in the media, such as images of police violence, and analyzes how they are used in the legal process. This isn’t typically dealt with in art history, but the study of visual culture takes art historical approaches and applies them to a greater variety of cultural productions.


WSN: What do you hope to do during your time at Oxford?

ZF: I was very busy the last two years at NYU and was doing a lot of extracurricular work, in particular freelance writing. Although I still really love writing, my hope is to really dial back on that for a couple years and to just totally immerse myself in the scholarship of the two disciplines I am planning to study at Oxford. I am so immensely fascinated in them, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with the scholarship and revel in it.


WSN: What are you plans after Oxford?

ZF: What I think I’m probably going to do — and I’m not 100 percent sure — but looking down the line, I think I want to pursue doctoral work and get a PhD that would integrate the two disciplines I’m working in, gleaning from the fruits of each and synthesizing them. I hope to ultimately take my studies beyond the academy, to use them to help inform my writing and, hopefully, to bring it to bear on policy reform and my engagements with activism as well.


WSN: Do you have any advice for prospective Rhodes Scholarship applicants?

ZF: The process was really long and grueling, and the one thing I did not sense was how much of a burden it would be on all the people that I love: my family, friends and romantic partner. Even if it is just one thing you’re applying for, it’s an all-encompassing process. The process demands that you put everything on the page: your character, achievements, desires and hopes.


Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]



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