U of M’s 99th Rhodes Scholar ‘beat the odds’ to get an education
The University of Manitoba is honoured to announce that Faculty of Arts graduate Annette Riziki is the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship for 2019. The U of M has produced more Rhodes Scholars than any other university in western Canada. Riziki is one of 11 recipients of Rhodes Scholarships in Canada for 2019.
For Riziki, her personal life experience and struggles growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo made her all the more determined to make a difference in the lives of others.
She notes, almost matter-of-fact, that: “The experiences of those perilous times stimulate my interest in migrant experiences, questions of injustice, inequality, dogmas, and freedom.”
She adds: “Displacement, trauma, and uncertainty became a norm for my family and resilience a character I mastered.”
Born in 1996 during what she describes as “Africa’s ‘first world war,’” Riziki traveled with her family in search of safety and freedom, stopping in Uganda where she began her education, completing it in Canada at Fort Richmond Collegiate following her family’s immigration in 2011.
Riziki explains: “Navigating through the Canadian school system was challenging at first. I had to strive to seize every opportunity since acquiring a better education was the primary example my mother would use to beat the odds. It was an emotional moment for my family when they heard that I would be graduating high school with a cum laude despite many people expecting little from a ‘war child.’”
Highly motivated and driven, Riziki entered the University of Manitoba where she competed for and won undergraduate awards two years in a row, in addition to several other student awards and scholarships.
“It’s something I never expected,” Riziki says. “It’s such a huge turning point in my life. My whole family was praying for me and was so excited to learn I was receiving the scholarship. Faith is very important in my family, and this was truly a blessing.”
In fact, it was the insistence of her mother in getting her education that led Riziki to do an undergraduate thesis at the University of Manitoba on parental factors influencing the academic motivation of immigrant students. She graduated in October 2018 with her BA(hons) in psychology, easily making the Dean’s honour list.
“It is heartening to see an individual with such exemplary drive and passion receiving this kind of recognition,” says President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard. “The University of Manitoba is committed to fostering and helping to develop dedicated students through culturally and politically relevant innovation and teaching. The number of Rhodes Scholars hailing from the U of M is evidence of our ability to attract and nurture the best and brightest students from around the globe.”
Apart from her academic interests, Riziki volunteers for many organizations including a Girls’ Group that focuses on the challenges females face globally, Youth in Philanthropy, and the Winnipeg Foundation, fostering youth engagement in local communities.
She explains: “I have a need for learning more about minority, marginalized and immigrant groups. Hence, approaching erudition from a humanitarian lens will help me in finding appropriate and innovative solutions to the challenges these groups incur.”
Riziki traveled back to Congo recently, finding it a challenging experience. She faced difficult conversations regarding limited opportunities for youth, insecurity, low support for sexual/domestic violence victims, and no access to suitable mental health services that are cognizant of cultural and historical backgrounds.
“I would like to pursue my masters in Refugees and Forced Migration Studies,” Rizkik says. “In that program students focus on outcomes of migration from a political, economic, psychological, and social perspective, and will enhance my theoretical and research skills needed to be a reflective practitioner who has better understanding of the consequences of resettlement.”
About the scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding all-round students at the University of Oxford, providing transformative opportunities for exceptional individuals. Valued at more than $90,000 (CDN) per year, Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England and may allow funding in some instances for four years.
Established in 1903 through British-born entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious international graduate scholarship program in the world, first awarded in Canada in 1904. A class of 100 Scholars will be selected this year from countries around the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe.
Rhodes’s vision in founding the Scholarship was to develop outstanding leaders who would be motivated to fight “the world’s fight,” to “esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim” and to promote international understanding and peace. Of the nearly 8,000 Rhodes Scholars to date, many have gone on to serve at the forefront of government, the professions, commerce, the arts, education and research. Many are advocates for expanded social justice and others have advanced the frontiers of science and medicine.
University of Manitoba Rhodes Scholars include former mayor of Winnipeg William Norrie, leading business lawyer Jillian Welch, and Sara Kreindler, Manitoba Research Chair in Health System Innovation and assistant professor in community health sciences at the U of M. Canadian Rhodes Scholars include Chrystia Freeland, Rex Murphy, and Otto Lang.
Other well-known Rhodes Scholars include President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble, NBA Hall of Famer and Senator Bill Bradley, and ABC political correspondent George Stephanopoulos.