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Wildcats Who Keep Winning

Young alumni awarded Soros, German Chancellor Fellowships

April 4, 2011 | by Amy Weiss

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University alumni Samir Mayekar and George Cederquist recently have been awarded prestigious fellowships to focus on international business and directing opera, respectively, once again proving that Northwestern students continue to seize academic opportunities after the purple cap and gown have been put away.  

Samir Mayekar will use Soros fellowship to focus on international business

Mayekar, a political science and international studies major who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 2006, won one of 30 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. 

He plans to focus on international business at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and return to public service upon completion of his degree. 

Mayekar currently is the deputy chief of staff for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government’s development finance institution. Since graduating five years ago, he also has worked as a management consultant, a budget director for Obama for America and national security director in the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office. 

As an undergraduate, Mayekar worked with Jerry Goldman, professor of political science at Northwestern, on The Oyez Project, a multimedia archive devoted to the Supreme Court. His musical talents as well as his sharp academic skills proved particularly useful.

“We had to record every false start, every disfluency; it was not an easy thing to do,” said Goldman. “Samir was brilliant because of his training as a percussionist,” Goldman said. “He could capture it in one pass—it was the perfect intersection of percussion and oral advocacy.”

While at Northwestern, Mayekar, who graduated summa cum laude, played in the marching band, participated in student government and was a member of the drum and dance group Boomshaka. He spent much of his junior year abroad in Argentina, where he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires.  After graduation, in addition to his consulting job, he served as associate artistic director of Be the Groove, a Chicago-based rhythmic performance group founded by Northwestern alumni.  He is currently president of the NUMBALUMS—the NU Marching Band Alumni. 

The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship is awarded to 30 New Americans--permanent residents, naturalized citizens or children of naturalized citizens--annually to finance graduate education. Fellows receive tuition and living expenses totaling up to $90,000 over two years.  Founded in 1997 by Hungarian-American philanthropists Paul and Daisy Soros, the fellowship is intended to recognize the contributions of new Americans to their country and provide assistance at a critical point in their education.  

George Cederquist will use German Chancellor fellowship to direct opera 

Cederquist, who graduated in 2010 from the School of Communication with a master of fine arts in directing, won a German Chancellor Fellowship for Prospective Leaders. 

Cederquist will use his fellowship to study Regietheater (German for “director’s theatre”)—an approach that gives the director creative freedom in the staging of an opera—at Staatstheater Darmstadt. Regietheater allows directors to make classic operas relevant by maintaining the musical integrity of the opera, but changing the setting and staging to address contemporary issues and stories. Cederquist intends to further develop his vision for modern opera in the United States.

“I direct operas because music allows me to feel most deeply for the characters onstage,” Cederquist said. “I use the emotion inherent in music as a tool to tell stories about human relationships and create a personal yet universal way of asking hard questions about the world in which we live.”

When directing “Sweeney Todd” at Northwestern, Cederquist ditched the Victorian London setting for an abandoned warehouse in a marginalized community in present-day United States.

“This contemporary approach to stage direction aims not only to inspire my own artistic collaborators but also to build a new audience for opera in America by reviving opera’s importance as a necessary part of American life,” he said. 

Cederquist will work on up to eight productions during the 2011-12 season at the Staatstheater before returning to Chicago, equipped to usher in a new era of American opera.  

The German Chancellor Fellowship for Prospective Leaders is awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Up to 10 candidates from each eligible country—the United States, China and Russia—are chosen annually. The fellowship is open to candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in any field, interested in executing a project of their own design in Germany. The fellowship is intended to create and foster a lifelong relationship between emerging young leaders and their German counterparts. 

For more information on scholarship opportunities, visit the Northwestern University Office of Fellowships.