[lg policy] Mississippi: UM Graduate Wins Prestigious Portz Scholarship

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 15:05:31 UTC 2015

UM Graduate Wins Prestigious Portz Scholarship
[image: Amir Aziz with Dr. Vivian Ibrahim]

Amir Aziz with Dr. Vivian Ibrahim

Most students graduate from college when they are 21 or 22. For Amir Aziz,
that’s when he began college as a member of the University of
Mississippi’s Sally
McDonnell Barksdale Honors College <http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/>
and the Croft
Institute for International Studies <http://www.croft.olemiss.edu/home/>.

Of course, not many Ole Miss students serve in the Singapore Armed Forces
before beginning their college careers.

Now 26, Aziz is continuing his studies this fall at the University of
Texas, where he is pursuing a doctorate in French as a recipient of a
prestigious Portz Scholarship. The scholarships are given to only four
honors students nationwide each year by the National Collegiate Honors

While fulfilling his duty to his country, Aziz saw the movie “The Blind
Side,” which is what led him to consider UM.

“I would have never heard of the university if I hadn’t (seen the movie)
because in Singapore, people kept telling me to apply to Ivy League
institutions,” Aziz said. “I hadn’t really considered going to a public
university until I looked up Ole Miss on the Internet. I was looking for a
school that had a top-ranked honors program and that offered international
studies and Arabic as majors, and I discovered Ole Miss had it all.”

Aziz applied to the university and was accepted into both the Croft
Institute and the Honors College, which also awarded him a Donald S.
Pichitino Scholarship. He packed his bags and headed for Mississippi, even
though he knew little about the state.

“It has been four years since then, and I have not looked back,” he
recalled. “I have enjoyed every moment in Oxford and forged long-lasting
connections with people there.”

Aziz double majored in international studies and French with a minor in
Arabic. In addition, he was installed as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was
chosen to receive a Taylor Medal. His thesis, “Al-Arabiyyah, Le Français
and the Soul of Algeria: The Language Tango between Arabic and French in
Algerian Education Policy and Defining Post-Colonial Algerian National
Identity,” was selected as the best thesis in the Middle East region by the
Croft Institute.

“Amir’s thesis was a unique and important contribution to several fields,
not least Middle Eastern and European Studies,” said Vivian Ibrahim, a
Croft associate professor of Middle Eastern history who taught Aziz in
several classes at UM and advised his Croft Institute-Honors College
thesis. She called Aziz “one of the very strongest students” in his classes.

For his thesis, Aziz examined Algeria’s language policy and its impact on
the education system, a daunting topic because Algeria is a difficult place
to conduct field work and find reliable sources. However, Aziz was
persistent, Ibrahim said.

“Even as an undergraduate with limited research time, Amir found ways to
unearth the information and present a truly comprehensive picture,” she
said. “Utilizing his excellent command of both Arabic and French, Amir
conducted fieldwork interviewing over 200 Algerian youths in the capital
city, Algiers, over the winter break of 2014. He presented a complex
picture of how the Algerian government’s policy of Arabisation has led an
education system in flux.

“Overall, he displayed the deep commitment to serious research that we wish
all our students had. He did not settle for easy or partial answers. Add to
this his attention to detail and his ability to join disparate pieces of
evidence into one line of argument, and it becomes clear that Amir is

Soon after Aziz presented his thesis, the Honors College nominated him for
the Portz Scholarship. In August, Aziz learned that he had won and will be
presenting his work at the 2015 National Conference of NCHC, set for
November in Chicago.

Aziz has fond memories of his time at Ole Miss.

*“*I always looked forward to taking Honors College classes each semester.
The highlights of my college career have taken place in honors classes with
some of my most favorite professors: Dr. Ann Fisher-Wirth in the honors
American literature survey, Dr. Robert Brown in Honors 101 and Dr. Donald
Dyer in Honors Conversations. The Honors College is like a second home to

At Texas, Aziz’s concentration is in international law and human rights,
with the goal of having a career at the United Nations.


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