Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos has been named a Rhodes Scholar! He majored in International Studies with minors in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Critical Translation Studies. Emmanuel is the University of Michigan’s 31st Rhodes Scholar since the award was established in 1902. 

Emmanuel is a proud first-generation student and is greatly inspired by his parents’ enthusiasm for higher education. “I am profoundly humbled and moved to the core,” he said. “I belong to a family of Mexican immigrants who came to the Detroit area and were welcomed with open arms. This outcome results from countless small acts of generosity we have received since we moved here.

“It also reaffirmed that migrants make enormous contributions to society when we allow them to forge their future. My parents — humble people and immigrant laborers — taught me so much about generosity and compassion. Though often unacknowledged, their contributions, as well as those of migrants across the country, have inspired me in my endeavors all these years.”

Emmanuel has served as an NGO representative to the United Nations Youth Forum and the Commission on the Status of Women. He studied abroad in Geneva Switzerland, researching the legal theory behind the UN Convention Against Torture and its applicability to non-state actors, and where he had the honor to interview Mr. Claude Heller, the current Chairperson of the UN Committee Against Torture. After his study abroad concluded, he was selected as the 2022 DHRC/PICS/Perseus Strategies International Human Rights Fellow. His goal is to join humanitarian efforts and human rights advocacy by working for global NGOs or pursue deployment by an international organization like the UNHCR. 

Since January of this year, Emmanuel has been working with the U-M Department of Comparative Literature to continue developing the public humanities initiative, “Translating Michigan.” His most recent project traces the connections between Mexican muralism, migration, and Detroit’s Hispanic community. This project was featured in the LSA Magazine. Translating Michigan is being expanded with the support of the U-M Office of the Provost and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the project has also paved the way for a new major in translation studies, which will be offered to U-M students in 2025.

Prior to winning the Rhodes Scholarship, Emmanuel was the 2023 recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award for his approach to inclusive leadership and contributions to the field of international human rights, a 2021-2022 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship winner, a five-term James B. Angell Scholar, and a 2020 UROP Blue Ribbon Award recipient for his role in developing U-M’s new responsive curriculum for international students. He has also received several other scholarships outside of U-M, such as the Miguel Cabrera Scholarship, and has presented and received awards on his research. As an undergraduate, he served as president of U-M’s Global Scholars Program and wrote for the Michigan Journal of International Affairs.

Emmanuel applied for Rhodes because he was deeply inspired by the invitation to “fight the world’s fight.” 

The University of Oxford pioneered the field of refugee studies in the 1980s. Emmanuel notes that some of the foundational ideas he was exposed to during his time at U-M were proposed by Oxford scholars. He is ecstatic to learn from some of the world’s most prominent experts in the field, and as a Rhodes Scholar, he hopes to strengthen the Inter-American asylum regime.

When asked for insight on applying, he notes that the value of applying for such a competitive scholarship such as the Rhodes forces applicants to examine the “why?” behind their aspirations, and that regardless of the outcome, everyone who applies will gain a great deal of insight into their motivations and flaws. In Emmanuel’s opinion, being aware of one’s limitations is incredibly valuable when wanting to pursue a career in public interest issues.

“I want to thank my family, friends, professors, and colleagues who welcomed and supported me. I do not take it for granted, and this moment serves as a reminder that love and generosity always multiply,” he said.

This year, U-M had three finalists who interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship: Emmanuel, Thomas Chen, and Pristina Koon.

To read more on Emmanuel's win, see this article from the University Record.