Hattie Seten, a senior at South Dakota State University, is one of the 32 American Rhodes Scholars-Elect for 2021.
Seten was inspired to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship by a fellow SDSU student, Connor Haaland, a Rhodes Scholarship finalist in the previous year.
“A few years ago, we both were presenting research at an academic conference in Mankato, Minnesota,” she said. “We drove out to Mankato together, and as we were driving, he was like, ‘Hattie, you really have to apply for the Rhodes,’ and I was like, ‘oh … I don’t know if I should.’ And he was like ‘yeah, you just have to apply,’ … no one else had told me that … I decided to apply because of that conversation.”
Becky Bott Knutson, dean of SDSU’s Honors College and coordinator of the National Scholarships Team on campus, commented on Seten’s humility.
“If you had a conversation with her, she would probably make it about you,” she said. “It is just mind blowing as you get to know her deeper … just how many layers there are and just how many accomplishments there have been.”
A triple major in political science, Spanish and global studies, Seten grew up in Sioux Falls. Attending Lincoln High School, she took numerous AP courses, participated on the cross country, track and synchronized swimming teams and was the state president for South Dakota DECA, a program that encourages the growth of leadership and business competence for students. Seten was also a member of the speech and debate team.
“That really got me interested in a lot of current events and world issues,” she said.
This interest led Seten to be awarded the National Security Initiative for Youth Scholarship (NSLI-Y), a merit-based scholarship that allowed her to spend a year in Morocco learning Arabic following high school graduation.
Following her year abroad, Seten began school at SDSU. While completing her undergraduate, Seten describes her biggest involvement on campus as serving as the Students’ Association president, in which she has the opportunity to work with student government, administrators and the state and local government.
Seten also works as the youngest member on the South Dakota World Affairs Council, which delivers programming to South Dakota that centers around current events and world affairs.
“Bringing that to this area that is pretty rural and disconnected often from large global events … is a lot of fun,” she said.
As a Spanish speaker, Seten also works as an English teacher for newcomers from countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in Flandreau, South Dakota.
Knutson said that Seten’s accomplishments, both nationally and here at SDSU, have certainly made her a role model for other students.
“She has such a big heart and a great mind. She is constantly employing both for the betterment of the world,” Knutson said. “You see the service she does for the campus community, and that extends beyond to the Brookings and surrounding communities … all in the name of diplomacy.”
With diplomacy being a theme in Seten’s life, she hopes to enter into a two-year Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) program at Oxford studying politics and comparative government. With a passion for international affairs, she hopes to work for the state department in the future.
Seten shared her thankfulness for the people who helped her along her way, as well as the resources available to her at SDSU. She credits several people for her success in her academic journey, including Molly Enz, a professor in the schools of American and global studies and women, gender and sexuality studies.
“[Enz] has provided me with the most support, and encouraged me to apply for different programs that set me up to have the experience that I needed for the Rhodes,” Seten said. “She supported me in a lot of my research, and then she pushed me in my classes … and served as a really strong advisor to me. When I leave SDSU, I’ll be really thankful for her.”
To all students, Seten has one piece of advice.
“Apply, apply, apply for everything,” she said. “You don’t want to let yourself be the biggest obstacle to your own success … If you are interested in some sort of program, take the time and do the application, because it might work out.”