Tawreak “Ty” Gamble-Eddington has yet to fully process the news.
Days after the 22-year-old Union College graduate learned he had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to complete a master’s degree in comparative government at the University of Oxford beginning next October, Gamble-Eddington is only starting to come to terms with what it all means.
“It’s starting to sink in a bit more,” he said. “I think when you first hear it, you don’t really realize it.”
Becoming a Rhodes Scholar — considered by many to be the most prestigious international scholarship in the world — is the latest in a long series of academic accomplishments for Gamble-Eddington, who grew up in a low-income household in Springfield, Massachusetts, and is the first member of his family to graduate college.
He is currently studying for a master’s in race, ethnicity and conflict at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, after being awarded the George J. Mitchell Scholarship last year. The scholarship allows 12 U.S. students to study in Ireland at no cost.
Those that know him are not surprised by his success, though his academic journey on his way to becoming a human rights lawyer is a story of hard work and perseverance.
Gamble-Eddington — the second Rhodes Scholar in Union College history — credits his mother for initially sparking his interest in politics by pushing him to be involved with his neighborhood council while in high school. That involvment eventually led him to volunteer for a number of local, state and national political campaigns where he would meet mentors that would help shape his outlook and encourage him to step outside his comfort zone.
Eventually, he found himself on the Union campus as part of the school’s Academic Opportunity Program, which provides first-generation students with low-income backgrounds financial and counseling support.
He would seize the opportunity, graduating with top honors this past June with degrees in political science and history.
While on campus, Gamble-Eddington took up a role as a community activist and assumed leadership positions in a number of on-campus organizations, including the Black Student Union, Union Pride and positions on the college’s LGBTQ+, diversity and civic engagement committees.
He not only helped launch the Union chapter of My Brother’s Keeper, a mentoring program that works with Schenectady youth, but also served as an intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam. He also organized a series of campus discussions with former members of Congress pertaining to current events.
“Just kind of having a series of mentors who encouraged me to take the next step, to apply for something, to reach, to keep pushing myself is what kept me involved, but also kept me interested in my academics,” Gamble-Eddington said.
During his time at Union, he applied for dozens of scholarship and fellowship opportunities to help cover the costs for new opportunities that allowed him to study in Washington D.C., as well as internationally in Poland, Spain and Argentina. He estimates he was rejected for two or three scholarships for every one that he received.
But when one door closed, another opened for Gamble-Eddington.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “And I’m very cognizant of the fact that many other people haven’t.”
Hard work pays off
His success comes as no surprise to those who worked with him throughout his academic journey, including Robert Hislope, a political science professor at Union College.
Hislope first met Gamble-Eddington in the AOP summer program back in 2017 and would go on to become his advisor after he enrolled in the political science program.
A “ferocious reader,” Gamble-Eddington would help lift others around him and extend classroom conversations beyond topics laid out in the syllabus, Hislope said.
He recalled Gamble-Eddington turning in extensive research papers that went well beyond the required limits. A required 20-page term paper on Belgium’s political institutions, for example, turned into 50 pages.
“He’s smart, but he also works incredibly hard,” Hislope said. “He’s like the artists or the athletes that have some natural skills but they have to work at it. They don’t rest on their laurels. They’re always diligently working to improve their skills, and that really fits Ty.”
Lynn Evans, director of national fellowships at Union, agreed.
Evans estimates that Gamble-Eddington applied for at least 25 scholarship and fellowship opportunities during his time at the college.
“From the get go, he was just an incredibly hard working student willing to put in time and effort to put together strong applications for opportunities he was very interested in,” she said. “I think that willingness to put in the work to achieve the goals he set for himself really has served him well over time.”
Evans recommended Gamble-Eddington apply for the Rhodes Scholarship because she believed he was the perfect fit. She recommends just one or two students a year apply for the scholarship.
“Whenever someone looks at his resume, they ask how did he fit all this in,” she said. “So, those traits that are being looked for for the Rhodes — academic, energy, amazing character, leadership and caring about others — he really matched all of them pretty perfectly.”
Gamble-Eddington, meanwhile, is planning to finish his current master’s program next summer before returning to Springfield to spend time with family.
He’ll then travel to Oxford next October to complete a two-year master’s in comparative government, where he plans to study how minorities are served in government institutions as well as how democratic institutions oppress the same groups.
“I’m going to probably be doing comparative analysis of the U.S. with western European countries, probably focusing on Black people and other marginalized communities,” Gamble-Eddington said.
He hopes to become an international human rights lawyer, working with either the United Nations or the International Court of Justice.
“I want to work with marginalized communities abroad, focused on amplifying their voices in terms of human rights abuses and focusing on how states can supress those rights or grant those rights,” Gamble-Eddington said.
Still, Gamble-Eddington hasn’t lost sight of his accomplishments.
He hopes his story can inspire others who may be in a similar situation.
“No matter what your background is, always pursue your passions, even when others tell you not to,” Gamble-Eddington said. “Take every opportunity that comes before you.”
Following his stint at Oxford, Gamble-Eddington is planning to attend law school. A decision on what school he will attend has yet to be made, though he recently finished applying to more than a dozen schools, including Yale, Harvard and Columbia.
“Hopefully they’ll let me defer,” he said.