Rutgers University‒Newark (RU-N) Alumna Awarded Gates Scholarship to Cambridge University

Rutgers University‒Newark (RU-N) Alumna Awarded Gates Scholarship to Cambridge University

Merve Fejzula enjoying life as a Cambridge student.
Copyrighted photos by Phil Mynott
RU‒N alumna Merve Fejzula, Class of 2011, is one of only 94 scholars in the world to be awarded a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The scholarship will allow her to earn her doctoral degree at the esteemed English university, only the ninth Rutgers graduate, in the 14-year history of the program, to receive one of the world’s most prestigious international scholarships.

Fejzula was selected from among 4,290 applicants, over two rounds of applications, from around the world. "The odds of being selected are so astronomical that I never thought I'd get selected," notes Fejzula, adding, "It was an unbelievable (and very welcome!) surprise."

The scholarship will cover the full costs of her degree, and provide an annual allowance for room, board and other living expenses. She also is eligible to apply for additional discretionary funding, such as a stipend to attend academic conferences. Fejzula just completed her master of philosophy (MPhil) in historical studies at Lucy Cavendish College, one of the colleges at Cambridge, and the scholarship will allow her to pursue a three-year research doctoral degree in history at Cambridge’s Trinity Hall.

Fejzula typifies the type of student that RU-N has sent out into the world for more than a century. A native of Macedonia who came to the U.S. as a baby, she lived in Garfield, N.J., and attended public schools in Bergen County. The first in her family to attend college, Fejzula selected RU-N because of its “research-level reputation” combined with its affordability.

“We couldn’t be more proud of Merve,” says RU-N Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “She epitomizes what is possible when an individual with such immense talent, intellectual curiosity, and commitment to making a difference in the world is given the opportunity to realize her potential through education. And writ large, that epitomizes what Rutgers University – Newark is all about.”

At RU-N Fejzula earned her undergraduate degree with a dual major in English and history and a minor in philosophy, from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Before beginning her postgraduate studies at Cambridge she worked at RU-N’s John Cotton Dana Library as program coordinator for the Library Diversity Research Center, where she developed programs to expand public understanding of diversity in higher education. She also was able to participate in the design of original research studies and co-present at national conferences, and get “a holistic view of the way a university runs.”

Her master’s dissertation at Cambridge is “African American Expatriates, Algerian Nationalist and Negritude in Post WWII-Paris.” Her related doctoral thesis will explore the “intellectual history of black and ‘Third World’ intellectuals in and out of Paris from 1945-1975,” a topic sparked by her interest in African American literature and history. “After I began exploring the work and lives of Richard Wright and James Baldwin, I realized they were part of this expatriate community of black writers in Paris,” Fejzula explains. “That set me off on exploring that time period, and I realized that a whole host of fascinating writers, philosophers, journalists, and intellectuals in Paris -- particularly black and "Third World" intellectuals -- were trying to grapple with the problems of 20th Century life, and that they deserved more attention and a proper historical study!”

The Gates program, established in October 2000 with a $210 million donation from the Gates Foundation, is working to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. According to the program website, “scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the United Kingdom to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge.” The selection criteria are outstanding intellectual ability; leadership potential; a commitment to improving the lives of others’ and a good fit between the applicant's qualifications and aspirations, and the postgraduate program at Cambridge for which they are applying.

Learn more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship program at

Media contact: Carla Capizzi,, or 973/353-5263.