Alex Coccia’s (’14) Notre Dame story began when he celebrated his first birthday on campus, and continued as he excelled in a variety of opportunities as an undergraduate. He served as student body president in 2013-14, conducted thesis research on conflict reconciliation in Rwanda, and founded the 4 to 5 Movement to improve the campus climate for LGBTQ students and their allies. He majored in Africana Studies and Peace Studies, winning the top academic award for the latter. He won two monograms on the varsity fencing team, including the 2011 national champions, and won the student-athlete award for community service.

Coccia also taught fencing to students in Uganda, led a student campaign against sexual assaults on campus and helped change admissions policies so undocumented students could attend Notre Dame. His efforts on behalf of under-represented populations on campus led to the Collins Award for advancing the interests of students. He also earned the Truman-Albright Fellowship, working this year in Washington, D.C., to address issues from domestic violence to health care.



  • The Rhodes Scholarship Recipient, 2014
  • The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Recipient, 2013, which includes $30,000 in graduate study funds, priority admission and financial aid at select institutions, leadership training, career counseling, and internship opportunities within the federal government
  • Yarrow Award in Peace Studies, 2014, for demonstrating “ academic excellence and commitment to service in peace and justice”
  • Glenna R. Joyce Scholarship: Full-tuition, four-year merit award
  • Dean’s Fellow: Honor Society for the College of Arts and Letters, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • International Scholar with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, 2012, conducting interviews in Rwanda that culminated with thesis, “Reconciliation and Development in Post Conflict Rwanda: Study of the Effects of the Gacaca Court System”
  • Experiencing the World Fellowship, a competitive grant, to conduct thesis research in Rwanda
  • Third Place in the Student Essay Contest at the National Council for Black Studies 36th Annual Conference Student Luncheon
  • Phi Beta Kappa inductee, 2014
  • Inducted into Societas Africana, the departmental honor society in Africana Studies


  • Student Body President, University of Notre Dame, 2013-14
  • Glynn Family Honors Program Leadership Award, 2014
  • Student Leadership Award, given by the Notre Dame Student Activities Office, 2013
  • Founder of the 4 to 5 Movement, a student initiative in support of LGBTQ inclusion on campus that won “Club Program of the Year” award from the SAO, 2011-2012
  • Collaborator in the creation of “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Holistic Development and Support of LGBTQ Students and Heterosexual Students at Notre Dame”
  • Steering Committee, Call to Action Committee, 2012, created by student government to improve campus environment for minorities
  • Corcoran Young Leadership Award, given by St. Vincent Family Center, Ohio, 2014
  • President, Progressive Student Alliance, 2010-13


  • Rev. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award, for “substantial personal efforts to advance the interests” of Notre Dame students, 2014, for improving the campus climate for students who are LGBTQ, minorities, undocumented citizens or impacted by sexual violence
  • Christopher Zorich Award winner for community service as a student-athlete
  • Sr. Jean Lenz, O.S.F., Award from the Gender Relations Center for helping men and women build strong self-identities
  • Peer educator for FIRE Starter, a Gender Relations Center program that revised and presented a Students Preventing Acquaintance Rape program in dorms
  • Mentor in the Read to a Child Program, 2011-13, working with a student in South Bend to develop reading and comprehension skills
  • Volunteer for Fields of Growth International, teaching fencing, team dynamics and social studies to students in Masaka, Uganda, 2011


  • Member of the 2011 Notre Dame Fencing National Championship team
  • Second-team All Conference, Midwest Conference, 2012
  • Member of the 2011, 2012, 2013 Men’s Midwest Conference Championship teams
  • Two-time Monogram Award Winner, 2011 and 2012
  • Representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Council, 2011, 2012


A scholar, student leader and athlete, Alex used his gifts and energy to exert a powerful and positive influence on many. On behalf of the entire Notre Dame family, I offer our congratulations on an honor that is well deserved.

- Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president

Alex did what we hope all students will do as undergraduates at Notre Dame. He took his learning experience beyond the classroom and took full advantage of all the resources on campus to discern his path, cultivate his gifts, and serve as a transformational leader.

- Dr. Deb Rotman, Paul and Maureen Stefanick Faculty Director in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement

Alex demonstrates that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. He is credible, tough, smart and skilled, exceptional in his leadership and vision, and incomparable in his ability to get deeply divided people to meet and talk to one another.

- George Lopez, Coccia’s former professor of Peace Studies and academic advisor

Alex was – and is – motivated by the stories and experiences of those without a voice, and is willing to take up the fight for those individuals and groups. Whether working for the establishment of Notre Dame’s first [organization for LGBTQ students and allies], for the healing of those affected by sexual violence, for the welcoming of undocumented students at Notre Dame or for the support of socioeconomically disadvantaged students on our campus, Alex has always been a champion of those who need one.

- Nancy Joyce, student body vice president in 2013-14 when Coccia was president

In his time here as a Peace Studies student at the Kroc Institute, he excelled in his studies and became a noted leader on campus. He has distinguished himself as a scholar and a leader, and I wish him all the best at Oxford.

- Ernesto Verdeja, director of undergraduate studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

University of Notre Dame Rhodes Scholars

  • Robert Shea ’23
  • James Greene ’48
  • Herman H. Hamilton ’50
  • Dennis Moran ’53
  • Donald C. Sniegowski ’56
  • Dennis Shaul ’60
  • Robert McNeill ’63
  • John Gearen ’65
  • John P. Santos ’79
  • Robert Vonderheide ’85
  • Teresa Doering-Lewis ’86
  • Gregory Abowd ’86
  • Eva Rzepniewski ’97
  • Eugenio Fernandez ’97
  • Andrew Serazin ’03
  • Alex Coccia ’14