MSU’s Dunne named Rhodes Scholarship finalist

Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Reese Dunne—an Astronaut, Goldwater and Presidential scholarship recipient and former Mr. MSU—is Mississippi State’s newest Rhodes Scholarship finalist.

Reese Dunne
Reese Dunne (Photo by Megan Bean)

Dunne, a senior mechanical engineering major and Shackouls Honors College student from Starkville, will participate in virtual interviews Nov. 11 and 12 for the world’s oldest and most lauded graduate scholarship. He is MSU’s sixth finalist in 11 years, joining graduate and Rhodes Scholar Donald “Field” Brown and graduates Natalie Jones, Holly Travis, Semaj Martin-Redd and Christopher Robinson.

Mr. MSU Reese Dunne
Mr. MSU Reese Dunne (right) and Miss MSU Kelli Gill Hixson ring cowbells during 2021's Homecoming Court festivities (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Criteria for selection include demonstrated scholarly achievement, character, commitment to others and the common good, as well as leadership potential.

The Rhodes Trust, a British charity established in the will of businessman and mining magnate Cecil J. Rhodes, promotes international understanding and provides full financial support for students pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Oxford, the first institution of its kind in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning.

Dunne began his academic career at MSU as one of 11 freshman Presidential Scholars picked in the fall semester of the 2018-19 academic year, receiving a G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Presidential Endowed Scholarship. The Bulldog track and field and cross-country competitor was selected in 2021 to participate in the Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde and the Glasgow School of Art, which he attended this past summer due to a delay in the program caused by COVID-19. Also in 2021, he became MSU’s 19th Goldwater Scholarship recipient, joined the year’s Astronaut Scholars Class and served on the Homecoming Court as Mr. MSU.

David Hoffman, an associate professor in the MSU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, also is director of the Office of Prestigious External Scholarships and mentors students like Dunne applying for national, merit-based scholarships and fellowships.

Hoffman said Dunne’s selection as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist is a tribute to the extraordinary work the student-athlete has accomplished at MSU.

“He really is among the most outstanding students I have ever met in terms of excelling in all the areas of Rhodes’ selection criteria. He has engaged in cutting-edge research as part of two National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates and in the Mississippi State labs of [mechanical engineering Assistant Professor] Matthew Priddy and [physics and astronomy Professor] Dipangkar Dutta; he demonstrates extraordinary leadership in his service to student organizations at MSU and nationally; he is a tenor in the MSU State Singers Choir and has channeled his love for music into the foundation of his own nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases; and, to top it all off, he is a Division 1 athlete,” Hoffman said. “Through it all, he has sought mentorship and guidance from numerous faculty and staff, which demonstrates his humility and willingness to learn. Ultimately, Reese personifies the extraordinary potential that can be unlocked by taking advantage of the opportunities that are available here at MSU.”

For more information about the Rhodes Scholarship, visit

Learn more about MSU’s Shackouls Honors College at Visit for more information about the Bagley College of Engineering.

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