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Thursday October 28th

Meet Gabi Stewart, Duke's newest Rhodes Scholar

<p>Gabi Stewart poses at Durham’s Community Empowerment Fund office, where she works with works with people in transitional homes and shelters and people in poverty. Photo courtesy of Gabi Stewart.</p>
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Gabi Stewart poses at Durham’s Community Empowerment Fund office, where she works with works with people in transitional homes and shelters and people in poverty. Photo courtesy of Gabi Stewart.

“This is Gabi?”

After hours in the library working on her thesis on papyrology in America, Duke student Gabi Stewart was a bit disoriented when she answered the phone. She’d had a busy week.

Stewart was one of the 32 Americans awarded the Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford last week. 866 candidates were nominated by their colleges and universities for the prestigious fellowship this year.

Stewart is a classics major at Duke, where she studies Greek — specifically, the study of text on papyrus.

“While my academic interests are really focused in classics, my personal interests and passions in terms of what I want to do for my career are in education — actually, I want to be a high school history teacher,” she said. “So, at Oxford, I’d really love to find a way of kind of meshing those two together.”

At the Community Empowerment Fund in Durham, Stewart works with people in transitional homes and shelters and those in poverty. She was also a founding member of the Duke Coalition for Alleviating Poverty.

In a Facebook post congratulating Stewart, CEF thanked her for her work and commitment to the organization.

“You’ve been an incredible leader (and) Advocate at CEF since the beginning of your freshman year,” the post said. “Whether you’re meeting with a Member, throwing a CEF party, sharing with prospective Advocates about CEF, or creating resource guides for Members to take the GED — you’re doing so with deep empathy and energy. We feel so fortunate to have gained your powerful presence on our team. Hats off to you!”

Stewart said CEF’s personal structure is what makes the work so worthwhile.

“It’s all centered around this relationship-based ethos — and for me, that’s what really drew me to it,” she said. “I think the most powerful way of connecting with a community is by building relationships.”

In a statement last week, Duke President Vincent E. Price congratulated Stewart for the scholarship.

“In her time at Duke, she has demonstrated great leadership both on campus and off through her social justice work and her research on ancient Greece,” he said.

Stewart said she is also passionate about music, joking about her lofty aspirations and likening herself to Justin Bieber.

“I do play a bunch of random stringed instruments, and I write songs,” she said. “My friend and I are in the process of writing songs — we auditioned for a record deal. We did not get that one; but we’re going to move forward, and we’re going to try and maybe go the more YouTube, Justin Bieber route.”

Stewart said she is still recovering from her family and friends’ reactions to the news.

“Well, I think I have about 30 percent hearing loss from the screams over the phone from them and my fellowship advisor,” she said.

At Oxford, Stewart will continue to study the Greek language and Greece's ancient social history.

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