University of Michigan senior named 2022 Rhodes Scholar

Rachael Merritt. (University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan student Rachael Merritt has been selected as a 2022 Rhodes Scholar.

Merritt is a senior in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and has a double major in international studies and Russian. The Grand Rapids native is one of 32 Americans who will receive the prestigious scholarship to the University of Oxford.

Merritt is the 30th University of Michigan student to be chosen for the awards since they were established in 1902. She plans to enroll in Oxford’s master’s program in Russian and Eastern European studies. Once complete, she intends to earn her master’s in social science of the internet.

“These programs will allow me to deepen my understanding of the political and economic contexts that civil society and independent media actors operate within in the REES regions,” Merritt said in a statement. “They will provide me with the frameworks and empirical tools to creatively advocate for strengthening democracy and free speech in these regions through open internet.

“I am eager to work with NGOs situated in this thematic and regional intersection, including Internet Without Borders and the Internet Society. I also wish to work with international bodies to begin codifying the rights to free and inclusive internet in internationally recognized contexts.”

This was the second year in a row that Rhodes Scholars were elected virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The class of 2022 was chosen from a pool of 826 applicants and includes a record number of women. Of the 32 scholars, 22 are women.

The scholarships cover all study expenses for two or three years at Oxford, and in some instances may fund up to four years of study. The group will begin studies at Oxford in October 2022.

Four U-M students were finalists for the 2022 Rhodes Scholarship.

“I’m so proud of all four of our Rhodes finalists,” Henry Dyson, director of the U-M Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships said in statement. “Rachael Merritt’s spirit of adventure, teaching English in Kyrgyzstan, studying in Moscow, her work with the Flying Subtitles Collective and with Russian journalists and activists, embodies the contemporary Rhodes Scholarship’s commitment to ‘fighting the world’s fight.’”

Merritt said her interest in merging internet and Russian and Eastern European studies stems from the need for greater internet regulation and transparency in Eastern Europe.

“I believe that it is more necessary than ever to think critically about the role of the internet in authoritarian regimes and to reimagine the international community’s engagement with the internet to establish democratic norms,” she said in a statement. “Studying at the intersection of REES and internet studies as a Rhodes scholar while receiving mentorship from professionals who share a similar vision for accountable digital democracy, I will have the opportunity to help lead this transformation.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.