Rachel Merritt, a student at the University of Michigan, has been named the 2022 Rhodes Scholar, one of 32 Americans selected to win scholarships at Oxford University.
Merritt, of Grand Rapids, an advanced student in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Arts, double major in Russian and International Studies, has become the 30th scholar at UM Rhodes since the awards were established in 1902.
At Oxford, you intend to enroll in a master’s program in Russian and Eastern European Studies, followed by a master’s in Social Sciences of the Internet.
“These programs will allow me to deepen my understanding of the political and economic contexts in which civil society and independent media actors operate in the REES regions,” she said. “They will provide me with empirical frameworks and tools to creatively advocate for the promotion of democracy and freedom of expression in these areas through the open internet.
“I am keen to work with NGOs located at this thematic and regional intersection, including Borderless Internet and the Internet Society. I would also like to work with international bodies to begin codifying free and inclusive Internet rights in internationally recognized contexts.”
The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most popular international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, 32 young students from the United States are selected to be Rhodes Scholars through a decentralizing process representing 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.
“For the second year, an almost entirely class of Rhodes Scholars, in which both candidates and selected remotely participate, participate safely and independently,” said Eliot Gerson, US Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. “While the operation was successful, we of course hope to return to interviews and selection next year in cities across the country, as has been done for over a century.”
Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford – ranked first in the world in some world rankings – and may allow funding in some cases for four years.
These students were selected from a pool of 826 applicants, who were nominated by 247 colleges and universities. The class features 22 women, the highest percentage elected in a single year, and has winners from 24 different colleges and universities. They will enter Oxford in October 2022.
This year, UM had four finalists interviewing for the Rhodes Scholarship. Merritt is the university’s third researcher in four years.
“I am very proud of all of the finalists for the four Rhodes Finals,” said Henry Dyson, Director of the UM Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. Rachel Merritt’s adventurous spirit, teaching English in Kyrgyzstan, studying in Moscow, and her work with the Flying Subtitles Collective and with Russian journalists and activists exemplify the contemporary Rhodes Scholarship’s commitment to “take the battle of the world.”
Merritt says Russia and Eastern Europe need more online regulation and oversight to promote openness, transparency and inclusiveness of voice.
“I think 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. “By studying at the intersection of REES and Internet studies as a Rhodes researcher while receiving mentorship from professionals who share a similar vision of responsible digital democracy, I will have the opportunity to help lead this transformation.”