Rhodes University Master of Social Science graduate awarded coveted Fulbright Scholarship to complete his PhD in the USA

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Esihle Lupindo
Esihle Lupindo

By Lindeka Namba, School of Journalism and Media Studies student


Recent Master’s graduate Esihle Lupindo has earned himself the Fulbright Foreign Student Exchange Scholarship to study towards a Doctoral degree in the United States of America (USA) at the University of Nebraska. The scholarship will provide full funding for his tuition and boarding and allow him to participate in a cultural exchange programme, amongst other things.

The South African Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides grants for South African university graduates to pursue postgraduate studies at a United States university in any subject. Students are selected through a rigorous application and interview process. Successful applicants receive several fantastic opportunities and a high level of support upon arrival in the USA.  

Lupindo said he initially had no intention of applying for the scholarship due to its highly competitive nature and the self-doubt he had regarding his academic performance. After persistent encouragement from one of his supervisors, he decided to take a chance and apply. The process took him a year, which included an interview session and an English and Maths exam. Lupindo said the COVID-19 lockdown regulations also played a part in the delay. “It was a very stressful time, especially because I was also awaiting the results of my Master’s research,” he explained.

Lupindo said he was anxious throughout the process because his whole PhD application depended on his Fulbright Scholarship application outcome. Nonetheless, when he received the news that he was one of the top 20 applicants, he felt all the more determined to see the process to the very end.

The Matatiele-born student was also recognised by Mail and Guardian as one of the top 200 interesting young South Africans. He made the list in the category of Education for his contribution in bringing matters of exclusion in the queer community to the forefront. 

In his Master’s research, which garnered him a distinction, Lupindo focused on the topic of “Ukuba ngabantu abapheleleyo: Black queer space making and the unfinished business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa”. In it, he probes the issue of belonging and fitting in with the national identity for those who feel excluded from such critical national conversations as the TRC. 

Lupindo extends his gratitude to the village of women who raised and supported him as a young man, many of which have not yet grasped the magnitude of this momentous achievement in his life. “My mom is probably the proudest person in my life,” he said. “But then I also have many mothers in my aunts and my grandmother.”

He sends his deepest appreciation to the peers and supervisors who believed in him and validated his dreams and ambitions while he was at Rhodes University. One of the people who Lupindo most admires is Dr Siphokazi Magadla, whose views on the importance of respecting elders steered Lupindo in his PhD research work. 

He states that his future plans include wanting to grow as a Sociologist, publishing academic papers and contributing to the ever-growing body of knowledge in academia. As part of his programme at the University of Nebraska, Lupindo will also get the opportunity to share his research through teaching. This will allow him to explore the possibilities of becoming a lecturer.