Originally Posted Online: Aug. 02, 2010, 12:00 am
Last Updated: Aug. 02, 2010, 12:22 am

To Oxford: Chezum begins PhD work at 21

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By Todd Welvaert, twelvaert@qconline.com

Photo: Todd Welvaert
Rock Island's Tiffany Chezum is leaving in September to continue her education at Oxford University in London.
Photo:
Rock Island's Tiffany Chezum studies the Cartouches of Ramses the Great at the Luxor Temple in Egypt. Ms. Chezum, 21, was in Jordan for an archeological dig as part of her masters degree from Queens University in Canada. She's leaving in September to continue her education at Oxford University in London.

She's like a lot of college kids at 21. She's looking forward to getting back to school, getting her degree and getting a job.

Except TiffanyChezum's already finished with her undergraduate degree, her masters too. At 21, a time when a lot of college heads are still slogging towards their undergraduate, she's heading off to the University of Oxford in London, to start work on her PhD.

It's not much of a surprise for the people who know her. Ms. Chezum, of Rock Island, started Augustana College at 15. She started kindergarten at 2.

"I'm excited to get back, being home has been nice but since I was a little kid I wanted to go to Oxford, that was it for me, Oxford," Ms. Chezum said.

Mom's pretty excited too. Ms. Chezum won the prestigious Clarendon Scholarship which pays tuition, room and board, and living expenses. She also won a Fulbright Scholarship that will cover her travel expenses.

She will continue her work in archaeology, but will be focusing on late Egyptian art history. She hopes to end up working in a museum, or with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO's mission includes managing world history sites and fostering appreciation and understanding among countries through science and humanities.

"Archaeology's kind of always been it, I decided that's what I wanted to do when I was 10," Ms. Chezum said. "I just got back from a dig in Jordan, it was a bath house. No gold, but a few interesting bone fragments. It's not like "Indiana Jones.'"

The dig was part of a college class from Queens University, one of Canada's leading universities, where she got her master's. She started in September, 2008, after graduating from Augustana College.

"She's really driven," her mother, Alice Baldwin, said. "She always has been."

After the dig, Ms. Chezum backpacked around Egypt for two weeks with some friends.

"We went to Cairo and saw the pyramids of course, then we went to Luxor, Valley of the Kings, King Tut's tombs, the Aswan Dam," she said. "I've been studying Egypt all my life, so I'm kind of nerd about it."

Some of her professors are surprised when they find out her age, but none express concerns about her ability to do the work.

"When I was 13, I took some college classes and a couple of the professors expressed concerns about me being there and if I was ready," she said.

"Butsince then, I haven't had a professor say anything. I think I've proven I can do the work."