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Two University graduates honored with Gates Cambridge scholarships

April 26, 2018
two portraitsLevan Bokeria ’14, left, and Garrett Rubin ’12E, ’13 (T5).

Two University of Rochester graduates are among 92 students chosen worldwide to be Gates Cambridge Scholars—the most prestigious international postgraduate scholarship offered by the University of Cambridge in the UK.

Levan Bokeria ’14 and Garrett Rubin ’12E, ’13 (T5) were selected from a pool of 5,798 applicants on the basis of their intellectual ability, commitment to improving the lives of others, leadership potential, and academic fit with Cambridge. Only three other Rochester graduates—David Liebers ’09, Anjalene Whittier ’14, and Pedro Vallejo-Ramirez ’16—have won the award in previous years. Only Vallejo-Ramirez was honored while an undergraduate.

Established in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship program aims to identify and select applicants who are academically outstanding and likely to be transformative leaders. “These scholars are expected to be big thinkers as well as doers,” says Belinda Redden, director of fellowships at Rochester. “One doesn’t advance from a pool of thousands to the couple hundred invited to interview for this scholarship without compelling evidence on both fronts.

Bokeria will be undertaking a PhD in biological science at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge. He was born and raised in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, and transferred from George Mason University to Rochester, where he majored in philosophy and brain and cognitive sciences. (He is the first Gates Cambridge Scholar selected from his home country.) A Phi Beta Kappa member who earned highest distinction honors in both of his majors, he was accepted as a Take Five Scholar with a program titled Fundamentals of Political Science and Recent History of Eastern Europe.

After Rochester, Bokeria continued his scientific training at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he was a research assistant and laboratory manager. He is now at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior, in the Netherlands, and will graduate in August with a master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience.

“My vision of the world is one in which our understanding of neuroscience can lead to drastic reduction of human suffering,” Bokeria says, “but also improvement in our cognitive abilities, which will feed back into accelerating our scientific study of the world around us.”

Rubin will be undertaking a PhD in education at Cambridge this fall, with a focus on the sociology of education in armed conflict. His dissertation will examine how education inside Syria both shapes, and is shaped by, politics and conflict.

“Over the past seven years, students, teachers and schools inside Syria have come under unrelenting and deliberate attack,” Rubin says. “As a result, millions of children and young people have been deprived of an education, bearing yet another burden of war that will affect them for decades into the future. By researching politics and education in Syria, my hope is to inform humanitarian policy and practice in ways that help to bring about safer, more meaningful and just educational opportunities for young Syrians affected by atrocity and conflict.”

Last year, the Roseville, California, native completed a master of philosophy in education, globalization, and international development at Cambridge, through support from Rotary International’s Global Grant Scholarship program. While at Rochester, studying voice at the Eastman School of Music, he completed a Take Five program titled US-Middle Eastern Cultural Diplomacy and was honored with the Presidential Award for Community Service. In 2013, Rubin also won a Fulbright mtv-U Award to Jordan. Given to just four applicants each year, the mvt-U grant supports projects that promote music as a global force for mutual understanding.

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