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U of T Scarborough alumnus wins Rhodes Scholarship

OUTSTANDING IN HIS FIELD: U of T Scarborough graduate Wojciech Gryc, pictured on the Scarborough campus, has won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

Student will spend up to three years at Oxford

Wojciech Gryc, a graduate of the University of Toronto at Scarborough’s international development studies (IDS) and mathematics programs, has been named an Ontario Rhodes Scholar for 2008. The prestigious scholarship comes with a stipend and tuition expenses at the University of Oxford for two years, with an option for a third year.

Throughout his university career, Gryc has focused on using technology to improve lives in the developing world. In 2007, he traveled to one of Africa’s biggest slums in Kibera, Kenya, where he trained young adults to use computer software and produce a local newspaper, Spotlight on Kibera. It was not his first trip to Africa – in 2006, he travelled to Chad where he helped youth volunteers at a French language newspaper Rafigui Presse Jeunes, who were experiencing difficulties due to their limited technical resources.

In 2005, he was named one of the “Top 20 Under 20” by the Youth in Motion Education Foundation for his efforts promoting human rights and international issues among the world’s youth. He founded Five Minutes to Midnight (FMM), an organization that promotes human rights and international issues among the world’s youth. Gryc founded the organization and an online magazine in 2003 while still in high school, as a response to the war in Iraq.

“Winning the Rhodes Scholarship is both a surprise and an honour,” says Gryc, 21, who was born in Poland but raised in Thornhill, Ont. “I am excited to be joining such a distinguished group of people, both past and present. At the same time, I realize this is just a stepping stone -- not just recognition for the work I've done, but encouragement for the work I have yet to do.”

Gryc plans on pursuing a master’s degree in mathematical modeling and scientific computing, but he is also excited about becoming involved in Oxford’s international development community. “I’ve always been interested in both since before high school. Any opportunity that allows me to do both, I’m happy to pursue it,” he said.

"We are absolutely delighted that Wojciech Gryc has been recognized with the Rhodes Scholarship," said Professor Franco Vaccarino, Principal of U of T Scarborough and Vice-President of the University of Toronto. "Wojciech is an outstanding student with a unique blend of talents – superb computer and math skills together with a strong social conscience and a passion for international development. He is incredibly deserving of this recognition, and on behalf of the U of T Scarborough campus community, we heartily congratulate him."

Astrid Guttman, secretary of the Ontario Rhodes Scholar selection committee, offered up praise for Wojciech. “He is brilliant, committed to using his math and computer smarts to tackle issues in international development and exceptionally unassuming and personable.”

by Maria Saros Leung and April Kemick

© University of Toronto Scarborough