Tyler Spencer (Col ’08) has received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford in England, the 46th UVA student so honored. He plans to earn a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention, which he hopes will help him evaluate the effectiveness of his own organization, Athletes United for Social Justice. The Washington, D.C., nonprofit, which he founded after graduating from the University, trains college athletes to be HIV educators.
No stranger to honors, Spencer also received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship, lived on the Lawn, and was named to Phi Beta Kappa while at UVA.
An athlete himself, Spencer got the idea for Athletes United after spending two summers with Grassroot Soccer, a similar program in South Africa. While in graduate school at Georgetown University last year, he recruited collegiate athletes from various sports to work with kids in southeast D.C. This year he plans to expand to include all five Division I programs in the D.C. area.
Young people are at serious risk for HIV infection in D.C., where an estimated 3 percent of adults are HIV positive—the highest rate in the country. Spencer notes that Athletes United also benefits the volunteers, most of whom will not become professional athletes, but all of whom he hopes will become more conscious of public health, education and other social issues as a result of their experience.
“I wanted to take my passion for sports and do something bigger with it,” Spencer says.