College alum Michelle Quay receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Michelle Quay, a recent graduate of the College, has been selected as a 2013 Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Currently a graduate student in Iranian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Quay received a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in 2011. At Cambridge University, she will pursue a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern studies, with an emphasis on medieval Persian literature.


Quay is one of 39 students selected from 36 different U.S. universities. This year’s Gates Cambridge Scholars, who will study for a variety of one-year courses and PhD degrees, were chosen from an initial field of about 769 applicants. The U.S. scholars will join 50 scholars from other parts of the world, who will be announced later this year.

“It is a great honor to be awarded such a scholarship, and the reality of it still has not sunk in for me,” Quay said. “It's an amazing opportunity to study at a top-caliber university while also joining a vibrant and diverse community of young Gates scholars. The award makes me appreciate my time at the University of Chicago and the unique opportunity it afforded me to study with a renowned expert in the unusual and fascinating field of Persian Literature, an opportunity without which I would not be in this position today.”

John W. Boyer, dean of the College, congratulated Quay on her award.

"Michelle is an impressive young scholar who gained admission to world-renowned graduate programs in her field and now has the crowning honor of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship,” Boyer said. “We are very proud of her, and look forward to her further accomplishments.”

While at UChicago, Quay served as an assistant resident head in Burton-Judson Courts. Quay also twice received the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship, first studying Arabic in Morocco in 2010 and then Persian in Tajikistan in 2012. At Cambridge, she will examine the diverse body of medieval texts that deal with women's positions and capabilities within the broader field of Islamic mysticism.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship was established through a $210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001. Competition for the scholarships is fierce, and the program is unique in its emphasis on social leadership as well as outstanding academic ability.

The University of Chicago has produced five Gates Cambridge Scholars in the previous five years, including most recently Michael Baumer, AB’12.