Wilfried Kuugauraq Zibell, a Harvard University student who grew up in the Inupiaq village of Noorvik in northwest Alaska, was selected as a 2021 Rhodes Scholar. 

Preparing for the final interview in the selection process, Zibell says what kept him motivated was thinking about how any achievement by a resident of Noorvik is celebrated as an achievement from the whole community. “At no point did I really stop to think this might turn out well—I might win,” he says.

He was shocked when he received the news.

He plans to study economic and social history at Oxford, specifically looking at modern village economies and impacts of colonialism. He then wants to return to Alaska and put that knowledge to use for the benefit of villages around the state. “The way I look at it, the only way this scholarship, this success, is worth anything is if I do something with it. If I help other people with it,” Zibell says.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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