The Middle East is once again exploding in violence but Elizabeth Allan, a University of Georgia senior, wants to one day help forge United States policy in the region. To her, the Middle East is a place of extraordinary beauty, hope and nuance.
And now to reach those lofty ambitions, the 22-year-old Atlanta resident’s resume will be armed with an impressive title: Rhodes Scholar.
On Saturday evening, Allan was named UGA’s fourth Rhodes Scholar in the past six years. Next fall, she will attend England’s Oxford University to pursue a master’s degree in Modern Middle Eastern Studies. She is one of 32 Rhodes recipients in the United States who were accepted from 838 applicants.
Joy A. Buolamwini, a Georgia Tech computer science student from Cordova, Tenn. was also picked for the award.
Allan, who is a year away from being fluent in Arabic, has travelled to six continents while in college. She said she is interested in the Middle East “because it’s where some of the most interesting questions and challenges are.” Authoritarianism, women’s rights, oil, violence, she said, ticking a few of them off.
Allan, a graduate of the Westminister Schools, got a Twitter account to follow the Arab Spring, the revolutions that roiled the region last year and toppled governments in Egypt, Libya and other nations.
“I’m on the optimistic side,” she said. “The Arab Spring is one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in my lifetime. There is a lot of work to do. But it shows change can occur.”
Allan received a Foundation Fellowship scholarship at UGA, which allowed much of her travel, including to Morocco where she studied Arabic. She will graduate next month with bachelor’s degrees in Arabic, economics, and international affairs as well as a master’s degree in international policy. She plans to work at the Carter Center in the spring and maybe travel to the Middle East before heading to England.
He father, John, is a tax lawyer at Jones Day, and her mother is the high school dean of instructional technology at Westminister.
Allan and 10 other Rhodes finalists were confined in tight quarters at Emory University for much of the day Saturday as they underwent their final interviews before the schorlarships were announced for two of them.
The group agreed to not talk about the award or their interviews. “It was kind of an awkward situation, so we played the board game Apples to Apples,” she said. The other winner from this district was Daniel Young, a Cornell University student from Virginia.
Buolamwini, studied computer science at Georgia Tech and has worked on projects with Google and is working on studies to see how technology can impact health in Africa.
On an online site, she calls herself, “ambitious, tenatious and somewhat loquacious. I live to build foundations for castles in the sky.”
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