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Rhodes Scholar Gabrielle Stewart reflects on her academic journey

Senior Gabrielle Stewart has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

The prestigious scholarship provides recipients the opportunity to receive a fully-funded degree at Oxford University. Stewart was chosen from more than 850 students who applied from across the country and is the 46th recipient in Duke’s history. 

Originally from San Dimas, Calif., Stewart is actively involved in community service as a founding member of the Duke Coalition for Alleviating Poverty and president of the Community Empowerment Fund. The fund helps coach people in shelters on how to improve their financial situation. 

Stewart is a classical languages major and history minor as well as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar. At Duke, she has studied early manuscripts, including translating an autograph book from a Saxon university student that shed light on 17th-century student life. 

“I found this one term, that was a Latinized-German word but there weren’t any dictionary entries for it so I was able to uncover what the word meant,” she told The Chronicle. “I’m hoping to get that published somewhere at some point.”

Stewart shared that originally she did not know if she wanted to pursue classics, and that she did not have a prior interest in mythology or ancient culture. She took a course in Latin at first to satisfy the foreign language requirement without having to take a spoken language, which she said had not worked out well for her in the past. 

Now, she says she thinks the classics are valuable because “there is so much wisdom locked into those texts.” She also finds it important to approach revered classics from new perspectives that might not have been available at the time.

“We praise this period of classical antiquity as the “height” of Western culture, and I think it’s really worth interrogating why and what narratives we showcase and which we don’t, and applying perspectives to classics that haven’t been applied before, like feminist perspectives or queer perspectives,” she said. 

President Vincent Price congratulated Stewart in a Duke Today press release. 

“I want to congratulate Gabi on her well-deserved Rhodes Scholarship,” Price said. “In her time at Duke, she has demonstrated great leadership both on campus and off through her social justice work and her research on ancient Greece. She is very well qualified to join the long line of distinguished Duke graduates who have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships, and I look forward to seeing where her career takes her from Oxford.”

Stewart noted that she wants to blend her interest in classics with her passion for education when she studies at Oxford. That could take many forms, she said, including a history of ancient educational theory or studying how the classics are taught today in secondary schools. 

Eventually, she hopes to become a high school history teacher.

“I’m really passionate about education—I actually want to be a high school history teacher,” she said. ‘Maybe later going into education policy or being a principal or being an actor on that kind of level, but I think it’s really important to have on-the-ground experience before going into policy. Things play out in the classroom so differently than you would expect.” 

Timur Ohloff, a visiting student from Germany, was named a Rhodes Scholar from Duke last year. The year prior, then-seniors Laura Roberts and Jay Ruckelshaus were named Rhodes Scholars.