One of the things Lee Borocz-Johnson learned during his semester studying at Oxford University in 2014 was that he felt right at home in the high-powered intellectual climate of one of the world’s oldest centers of learning.
Now the 2016 Elmhurst graduate is preparing to cross the Atlantic again, this time to begin work on a master’s degree in political thought and intellectual history at Gonville and Caius College of Cambridge University. His studies will be supported by a $5,000 fellowship from the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Borocz-Johnson was one of just 51 students in the United States to earn the prestigious award.
“I’m excited about going back,” Borocz-Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to devote myself to studying full time.”
In fact, his studying has already begun, well in advance of the start of his Cambridge term in October. In between shifts of his summer job cleaning gutters and washing windows, Borocz-Johnson has been doing what he calls “some preliminary reading” into English history of the 16th and 17th centuries.
“And I’m trying to work on my Latin,” he said.
That kind of diligence is standard operating procedure for Borocz-Johnson. During his semester at Oxford two years ago, he said, “I studied as hard as I ever have in my life.” He said he appreciated the intellectual workout that comes with studying in “such a high-octane academic atmosphere.”
He expects more of the same at Cambridge. His master’s work will focus on the life and writing of Edward Hyde, an English statesman who figured prominently in the political turmoil of the years leading to the English Civil War. Borocz-Johnson encountered Hyde’s work in the course of his studies at Oxford in 2014.
Borocz-Johnson, who studied English and philosophy at Elmhurst, applied for the Phi Kappa Phi fellowship at the urging of Dianne Chambers, a professor of English at Elmhurst. During his undergraduate semester at Oxford, he was one of three Elmhurst students in the Middlebury College-CMRS Oxford Humanities Program, which is associated with Oxford University’s Keble College. Every year Elmhurst students participate in the program, joining about two dozen other American students.
Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College, where Borocz-Johnson will be doing his master’s work, was founded in 1348. The school’s alumni include 13 Nobel Prize winners.
Borocz-Johnson plans to pursue a career in academia, inspired partly by the example of his professors at Elmhurst and partly by his experience at Oxford.
“One of the epiphanies I had there was that I could make meaningful contact between my work and the concerns of the real world,” he said. “I’m interested in uncovering ways to think about today’s political discourse.”