University of Michigan student named 2021 Rhodes Scholar

Amytess Girgis is 29th U-M Rhodes Scholar

Amytess Girgis.
Amytess Girgis. (Courtesy: University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan senior Amytess Girgis of Grand Rapids has been named a 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

The political science major is one of 32 Americans selected to win prestigious scholarships to the University of Oxford in England. She is also the 29th U-M student to become a Rhodes Scholar since the establishment of the awards in 1902.

For the first time ever, the 2021 U.S. Rhodes Scholars were elected virtually due to the pandemic.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions: joy, shock, anxiety. But most prominent is the understanding of the implications of this honor -- and reconciling with its colonial legacy,” Girgis posted on her Twitter account.

The focus of her honors thesis is Detroit-based mutual aid groups during COVID-19. Girgis is president of the Michigan Stamps Scholars Society, has been active in progressive political campaigns and union organizing and helps lead the One University Campaign to increase funding and introduce equitable long-term support policies to U-M’s Dearborn and Flint campuses.

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The Iranian and Egyptian student envisions herself “amplifying the experiences of the marginalized to rectify past harms” in her career.

The Rhodes Scholarships are the world’s oldest and most widely-recognized international fellowship awards. Thirty-two young students from the United States are selected annually to become Rhodes Scholars. Twenty-two students of the 2021 class are students of color -- a record-breaking number for the scholarships; nine are first-generation Americans or immigrants; and one is a Dreamer under DACA. Seventeen scholars are women, 14 are men and one individual is nonbinary.

Rhodes Scholarships are full-ride study tracks for two or three years at the University of Oxford. In some instances, funding may be allowed for four years of study.

The students will begin their studies at Oxford in October 2021. Overall, 953 applicants had been nominated for the award by their colleges and universities. Girgis will now join the group in completing their applications to begin courses across a wide range of academic disciplines at Oxford.

“These young Americans will go to Oxford to study in fields broadly across the social, biological and physical sciences, the humanities and public policy,” Elliot Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust said in a statement. “They are leaders already, and we are confident that their contributions to public welfare globally will expand exponentially over the course of their careers.”

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