Stanford senior awarded humanities scholarship to study at Oxford

LENA ZLOCK, a senior majoring in history and French, has won a 2019 Ertegun Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the humanities at the University of Oxford next academic year.

Lena Zlock
Lena Zlock. (Image credit: Michal Krenz)

Zlock is the first Stanford undergraduate to be honored through the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities, according to the program’s administrator.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Zlock, who was one of 15 students to receive the award this year. “It’s a validation of all the work I’ve done so far.”

The program was created in 2012 with the support of influential interior designer Mica Ertegun and her late husband, Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. The scholarship annually provides full-time tuition and living costs to between 12 and 15 students from any country to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees in the humanities fields at Oxford. Students also get their own desk for research and writing at Ertegun House, a historic building at the heart of Oxford’s academic community.

The scholarship honors highly qualified students who “have a plan to enlarge their knowledge, have the desire to extend their vision and seek the opportunity to exchange their ideas,” according to the program website.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of a community of interdisciplinary scholars and hosting conversations about digital tools and how they could be used in humanities research,” Zlock said.

Since her sophomore year at Stanford, Zlock has been developing the first-ever digital exploration of 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire’s personal library, which contains more than 6,700 books. The project’s aim is to make the library’s contents easily accessible and searchable online. As a junior, she became the inaugural researcher at the Voltaire Lab, a new digital humanities initiative created by the Voltaire Foundation at Oxford.

Thanks to the support of the Office of the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, Zlock has presented her research at conferences in England and the United States. She was awarded the Oxford University Press Prize for her research and she also received Stanford’s Ralph M. Hester and Laurence C. Franklin Prize for French and was inducted into the French honors society Pi Delta Phi.

At Oxford, Zlock will pursue a year-long master’s degree in modern languages with a specialty in European Enlightenment while continuing to work with the Voltaire Foundation. After she’s finished with her master’s, she hopes to enroll in a doctoral program in modern languages or history.

Zlock said she is thankful for her Stanford professors and their mentorship, as well as for Stanford’s broader commitment to the humanities and digital projects. Her research previously received funding through an Undergraduate Advising and Research Major Grant, as well as a Chappell Lougee Scholarship and a Conference Grant.

“I don’t know where I would be without the generosity of my mentors and Stanford’s support,” Zlock said.