On the Rhodes to success

Wojciech Gryc won the Rhodes Scholarship

Wojciech Gryc, a recent graduate from UTSC,
won the Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University.
Photo Credit: Jolanta Gryc

After winning a Rhodes Scholarship, many people might let pride and arrogance overcome their reaction.

That’s not the case for Wojciech Gryc.

The University of Toronto at Scarborough student may have joined a list that includes such luminaries as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former premier Bob Rae, Governor General Roland Michener, humanitarian Marc Kielburger and former U.S. Ambassador Allan Gotlieb, but it hasn’t fazed the 21-year-old that much.

“I wasn’t sure if it went well,” he says of the application process. “I didn’t think it did, but it’s always like that.

“You start overanalyzing about things and then you just make yourself much more worried.”

Gryc applied for Rhodes when he graduated from UTSC last year with a double major in international development and mathematics.

Rhodes recipients earn a two-year scholarship at Oxford University in England to study in any full-time postgraduate course. It covers all university and college fees and judges by four standards when accepting applicants, including literary and scholastic achievement.

Getting the award, however, is far more than just the quality of your marks.

Gryc is the founder and director of Five Minutes to Midnight, an organization devoted to protecting human rights and teaching world youth about international issues.

For two months during the summer, he travelled to Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, where he worked to provide organizations with training to run their own newspapers or print media.

The organization that funded the program — Shining Hope for Community (SHOFCO) — provided training and brought donations like laptops and software that would enable people to run their own media.

“It was a very successful project, and it was something we were really quite worried about,” Gryc said. “A lot of the time when you do trips like this, you read the newspaper or you read the travel advisor and it often says really bad things about the place you’re going, but it’s often a lot better than it sounds.

“We didn’t have any problems, it was great. I’m happy and looking forward to doing more trips like this in the future.”

Gryc is currently working just outside of New York in the IBM mathematics department.

He looks at patterns within social networks, trying to make predictions on social systems.

Though he does enjoy it, he says he misses campus life at UTSC.

” I enjoyed being on campus and the community is great, it’s something that I really miss now, ” he said. ” Transitioning from school to work, even if it’s not permanent, it’s interesting and it’s different and it takes getting used to.

“All my professors and faculty were very supportive in terms of the crazy stuff I wanted to do, so it’s something that I was grateful for.”

Looking towards Oxford, Gryc is excited to get into a course of study with a defined focus. The program centres on mathematical modelling — taking math and using it to solve business problems and make predictions — something he says he didn’t get to do much of in during his undergrad studies.

” It’s a great opportunity to connect a lot of different networks and people I would otherwise have difficulty working with if I was based in North America,” Gryc said.