Graduate student wins Gates Cambridge scholarship

Graduate student Nicholas Posegay, AB’16, has won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge beginning in the fall. One of 36 U.S. recipients chosen from a pool of approximately 800 applicants, Posegay will pursue a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarships, announced Feb. 9, are awarded to students who exhibit outstanding intellectual ability and leadership potential, and who demonstrate a commitment to improving others’ lives.

As an historian, Posegay is interested in exploring interfaith interactions in the medieval Middle East—a period in which Jews, Christians and Muslims shared a textual and intellectual tradition and engaged in a free and lively exchange.

He said drawing on this robust past can contribute to better understanding of the area today. “Educating others about the Middle East, with an emphasis on linguistic and religious diversity, is the best way for me to contribute to broadening perceptions about multiculturalism in the region,” Posegay said. “The Gates Cambridge Scholarship allows me to work toward this goal at a University that has resources which are unparalleled in their value to my research.”

Posegay completed his undergraduate coursework in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in just three years. Now in the final year of a joint BA/MA degree in Middle Eastern Studies, he plans to graduate in June.

“Nicholas’s proposal to study interactions between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the medieval Middle East is both fascinating as a research topic and has clear relevance for today’s efforts to find solidarity despite ethnic, religious and linguistic differences,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “We congratulate Nicholas on this achievement, and look forward to reading his scholarship."

Dispelling stereotypes of Middle East

In an effort to read original texts from the medieval period, Posegay has studied Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac and Judaeo-Arabic. In 2016 he was the recipient of a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study intensive Arabic in Morocco; this year he has continued his Arabic language studies through a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. 

During his time in the College, Posegay served as a docent at the Oriental Institute Museum, leading tours involving the history, culture and archaeology of the ancient Near East. He also worked as a membership and development assistant, authoring education materials for tours and working on the annual lecture series. In 2015, he co-founded UChicago Majalla, a student-run, Arabic-language journal he continues to edit.

After earning his doctorate at Cambridge, Posegay plans to share his knowledge as a professor, with an eye toward dispelling negative stereotypes of the Middle East. ‘It is my hope that my teaching will enable students to analyze historical events—as well as modern conflicts—with a multifaceted perspective that goes beyond notions of ‘intractable’ religious feuds.”

Posegay is the 22nd UChicago student to receive a Gates Cambridge Scholarship since the award’s inception in 2001. He was supported throughout his application process by the College Center for Scholarly Advancement, which assists undergraduates and College alumni through the highly competitive application processes for prestigious national scholarships and fellowships.