Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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After 3 majors, 19-year-old NU grad wins Marshall

Northwestern’s latest Marshall Scholar, Michael Aktipis, Weinberg ’02, traveled the world, taught salsa dancing and earned a college degree — all by age 19.

Currently a Fulbright Scholar in Austria, Aktipis was awarded a Marshall Scholarship to study in Great Britain next year.

Aktipis was among more than one thousand applicants from across the country — 210 in the midwest alone — for just 40 scholarships. Four of NU’s seven applicants were finalists.

Established in 1953, the Marshall Scholarships are a thank you gesture from the British government for U.S. assistance during World War II.

Aktipis, from Oak Brook, Ill., graduated magna cum laude with a triple major in economics, political science and German.

Given his pick of any university in Great Britain, Aktipis chose the London School of Economics, where he plans to continue his research on the European Union while pursuing a master’s degree in international relations.

“I really never thought I would get it,” Aktipis said. “No matter how well-qualified you are, you are still going up against the best of the best. Some part is what you do yourself, but so much of it is also luck.”

Aktipis was 15 when he entered college. After his mother died during his sophomore year, he said he became more focused on his studies.

“That’s what she wanted, and that’s what I wanted,” he said. “When things start to work out well, you gain momentum. Things fall into place. … You don’t have any chance whatsoever if you don’t go for it.”

A member of College Republicans, Aktipis served as an intern with Rep. John E. Porter, R-Ill., and in Washington with the House Human Rights Caucus.

“Michael is not only completely brilliant, but he’s also completely genuine,” said Sara Anson Vaux, director of NU’s Office of Fellowships. “He’s genuinely interested in other people and is involved in civic projects. I think that quality of integrity just shines through him.”

Aktipis also taught salsa dancing for NU Social Dance after picking up moves from his sister.

“It’s something that keeps me sane,” he said.

Aktipis has spent summers in Austria and Greece, where his parents were born, picking up a love for European culture. He also spent his junior year studying abroad in Austria.

“That’s where the seeds of internationalism were able to flourish,” Aktipis said. “I really became very interested in international political issues.”

University President Henry Bienen nominated Aktipis for the scholarship after Aktipis took Bienen’s political science seminar on U.S. national security.

“I’ve always admired him as a great student and a great person,” Bienen said. “He’s somebody who is very mature as a scholar for his age.”

The Daily’s Elaine Helm contributed to this report.

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After 3 majors, 19-year-old NU grad wins Marshall