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Nov. 20, 2005 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
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Three University of Chicago students named Rhodes Scholars

    Click for print-quality images:
Maria Cecire
Maria Cecire

Samsher Gill
Samsher Gill

Nicholas Juravich
Nicholas Juravich

(Cecire/Juravich photos by Dan Dry)

More University of Chicago Rhodes Scholars

In the News
“Rhodes Scholars have Chicago ties”
[chicago tribune]
Nov. 21, 2005

“More to Rhodes Scholars than brains”
[Chicago Sun-Times]
Nov. 21, 2005


One student spent 10 weeks chronicling human rights abuses in South Africa; another seeks to forge new ground applying political philosophy to the intellectually disabled; a third aims to spark children’s learning with medieval literature.

The three, Nicholas Juravich and Maria Cecire, to graduate the University of Chicago in 2006, and Samsher Gill, a 2005 graduate, have won the renowned Rhodes Scholarships for study in Britain.

It is the fourth time in a decade that multiple University of Chicago students have received the Rhodes Scholarship, bringing Chicago’s total number of scholars to 42. The Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic scholarships, was established in the will of British colonial pioneer and statesman Cecil J. Rhodes and was initiated upon his death in 1902.  The award provides tuition and a living stipend to 32 Americans for two years of study in any field at Oxford.

“This is one more truly powerful example of what can happen when we recruit students of very high quality, provide them with a challenging Chicago liberal arts education, and support them in all ways possible,” said John Boyer, the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History and Dean of the College.

Nicholas Juravich’s worldview took shape during training runs down Drexel Boulevard in Hyde Park.  As captain of the University of Chicago’s Cross Country team, Juravich witnessed the stark contrast between the stately University campus at one end, with dilapidated housing projects at the other.

During his runs down Drexel Boulevard, Juravich, a native of Amherst, Mass., saw that diverse route as “a crash course in the social, economic and racial inequality and injustice that haunt American cities and the world at large,” Juravich said.

To delve into the context to these injustices, he majored in History.  During his second year at the University of Chicago, he went to South Africa where he cataloged forced evictions among the poor for a local agency.  That experience led him to take a job at the university’s Human Rights Program.

“Nick is a true Renaissance man: scholar, athlete, and committed social activist,” said George Chauncey, University of Chicago professor in History and the College. Juravich took two classes with Chauncey, who serves as his advisor.

While in Britain he plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy in Social and Economic History at Oxford University, and he eventually plans to obtain a doctoral degree in American History.

Juravich, 21, in addition to being on the Dean’s list for the past three years, was elected a Student Marshal for the Class of 2006, the highest academic honor awarded by the University.

Samsher Gill, 22, arrived at the University of Chicago expecting to prepare for law school, tracing the footsteps of his mother. Instead he felt drawn to political theory, fueled by the injustices he saw between the relative ease in achieving his goals, compared with his older brother, who struggles with Down syndrome.

Gill, whose father was born in India, began to see political theory’s mismatch with reality: “While it addressed someone like my father or mother – differentiated through race, ethnicity or gender -- where was the rigorous theory aimed at opening society to people with intellectual disabilities?” Gill posed to the Rhodes Scholarship committee.

He has worked both at Mental Disability Rights International and at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. The former group argues that mental disability rights have been left out of most human rights activism. In that vein, Gill helped start a project attempting to link intellectual disability to the right to health at the later group.

Raised in Edina, Minn., he has spent time studying in Berlin, and Paris. He was elected Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year and also elected as a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor endowed by the University.  

University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum, Professor in Law, Philosophy and the College, admitted him to her Feminist Philosophy class as an undergraduate, an unusual allowance.

“His unusual seriousness of purpose led me to admit him, and I was not disappointed,” she said. He shows a “clarity and subtlety of understanding and an ability to grapple with the complexities of texts, all way beyond his years.”

Maria Cecire, 22, says the freedoms and trust her parents granted her to explore her passions – allowing her to stay up late for her early theatre work for example – unleashed her creative spirit early on.

That independence led her to lobby her parents to live and study abroad in Norway at the age of 16, and take a year off between high school and college to teach English in Japan.

“I embarked on all kinds of trials of my parents’ trust,” said Cecire, a Rhodes winner this year.

Fascinated by what sparks kids’ curiosity to learn, she will now get to combine her creative and academic passions studying English medieval studies at Oxford.

“I want to study medieval literature and research how it is connected to the books for young people that emulate it today,” she told the Rhodes committee.

Through her job as a docent at the Smart Museum of Art, she discovered the ability of art to engage underserved children in learning.  She wants to explore the connections she sees between medieval literature and contemporary children’s stories, and eventually open a charter school for low-achieving or otherwise underprivileged students.

“Maria is a fine student as well as a talented documentary film-maker. Among her achievements so far is a film in which she movingly documents the idealism and dedication with which Zambian science teachers make do with practically nothing,” said Christina von Nolcken, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, Committee on Medieval Studies and the College.

The Newport News, Va. native was named a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor awarded in the College, and was president of Fire Escape Films, a student-run film group, where she has been active for several years as a filmmaker and advisor.
Last modified at 10:35 AM CST on Tuesday, November 22, 2005.

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