Williams College Senior Summiya Najam Named a Rhodes Scholar

Media contact: Gregory Shook, director of media relations; tele: 413-597-3401; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., October 30, 2019—Williams College student Summiya Najam ’20 has been named a Rhodes Scholar for Pakistan for 2020. Najam has been selected to join a class of approximately 100 students from more than 60 countries worldwide to receive this distinguished scholarship to study at Oxford University next year. She is Williams’ 40th Rhodes Scholar.

Since the establishment of the scholarship in 1902, nearly 8,000 Rhodes Scholars have gone on to serve at the forefront of government, the professions, commerce, the arts, education, research, and other domains. The Rhodes Scholarships for Pakistan are a partnership between the Rhodes Trust and the Second Century Founder John McCall-MacBain.

An economics major from Islamabad, Pakistan, Najam is an applied microeconomist who is committed to bridging the gap between policy and minority experiences. “After coming across the economic and institutional marginalization of Muslim women in [Pakistan and the United States], I recognized the centrality of effective policymaking in giving voice and agency to the marginalized,” said Najam, who has previously worked on projects related to transgender health, disability benefits, and fertility decisions. “In the future, I aspire to better understand how specific marginalized populations react to economic policies using the lens of econometric identification and behavioral economics.”

“This is a well-deserved honor for Summiya, who is one of the brightest, hard-working, energetic, and justice-oriented students I have known,” said Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. “In addition to her stellar academic accomplishments, she has committed herself to student mentorship and leadership since the moment she arrived on our campus.”

At Williams Najam has served as served as the co-chair of the Muslim Students Union, co-chair of the South Asian Students Association, and co-director of International Orientation for the class of 2022. In this role she sought to create spaces for mental, spiritual and communal support for minority students. She also worked closely with the college’s office of sexual assault prevention to personalize institutional support for sexual assault survivors from minority backgrounds. Similarly, she was elected president of the Phi Beta Kappa Williams Chapter for the 2019-20 academic year. As president she hopes to improve access to academic resources for those historically underrepresented in academic honor societies. In addition, she was recently awarded the Carl Van Duyne Prize in Economics for her work in analyzing the impact of child labor legislation on child wages, participation rates, and welfare in Pakistan.

“Whether it be welcoming new international students to campus and developing the kind of programing that meets their needs, building bridges within the religious community on campus, founding a chapter of HEART Women and Girls on campus to promote sexual health education and violence prevention in Muslim communities, or participating in student governance in all of its forms, Summiya has been committed to improving the Williams community,” Sandstrom said. “While it can be easy to critique existing structures and practices, it is far harder to realize effective change. Summiya is committed to the latter, and has developed a reputation on campus as an effective and conscientious agent of change.”

At Oxford, Najam hopes to continue her studies in economics while continuing her role as a community builder. “As a Rhodes Scholar, I wish to pursue an M.Phil. in economics that will equip me with the necessary knowledge and understanding of theory, techniques, and tools to study the effect of policies on the marginalized communities,” she said. “In addition, I am excited about the opportunity to learn and grow alongside like-minded scholars who want to give back to their communities.”

Najam is the 40th Williams student to be named a Rhodes Scholar since the program began in 1902. The most recent previous Williams recipients were Linda Worden ’19 in 2018, a graduate of the college’s Center for Development Economics, Diala Issam Al Masri ’15, in 2016 and Brian McGrail ’14 in 2013. A full list and profiles of this year’s winners can be found on the Rhodes Trust website.

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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