Established in 1903 in the will of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, the scholarship is meant to draw top students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford in England for up to three years. The 23-year-old Kelly will join 83 other Rhodes Scholars at Oxford starting September 2012.
“I was humbled,” said Kelly on getting the scholarship. She is currently in the second year of a two-year masters program in English at the University of Saskatchewan and plans to focus on Medieval studies at Oxford.
Kelly said that being an English major, she felt it would be difficult to win the scholarship, “but I was encouraged and flattered by the fact they listened so well in the interview about what I had to say about the humanities.”
She clarified that people in the sciences don’t get a free ride, just that it’s easier to show tangible benefits to society coming from the physical sciences.
“It’s much harder to do that in the humanities.”
Kelly’s interview took place Nov. 19, and she heard back just a few hours later that she would be awarded one of the three prairie spots. She was one of 10 applicants from the region.
Being awarded a scholarship takes more than just academic achievement. Rather than “mere bookworms,” as Rhodes writes in his will, the scholarship is meant to raise leaders interested in “fighting the world’s fight” and applying their knowledge to their communities.
Kelly’s strong volunteer experience likely helped in this regard. She has coached softball, volunteered at the Saskatchewan Children’s Festival and acted in Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, to name just a few extracurriculars.
Of course, Kelly also has the grades to be worthy of a Rhodes Scholarship as well. Kelly’s average as an undergraduate was over 90 per cent, although she said she preferred not having her exact grade made public.
“I’m not embarrassed by it. I just don’t want everyone on campus knowing,” Kelly said with a laugh.
Kelly will have two years of tuition covered at Oxford, and will receive a monthly stipend on top of that for living expenses. She has yet to choose which of Oxford’s 38 colleges to attend — the university has a unique collegiate system — but she has been in contact with previous Rhodes Scholars seeking advice and learning what to expect.
Brett Fairbairn, the current U of S provost and vice-president academic, was also a Rhodes Scholar, attending Oxford for a B.A. and later a PhD in history. He lived in England for five years.
“Oxford itself is a pretty special place — the architecture and sense of history are remarkable,” said Fairbairn of his time there. “The intellectual life of the university was really stimulating. There were more fascinating lectures than a person could ever attend.”
The provost said the Rhodes Scholarship not only gave him a fantastic academic opportunity, but also made him appreciate his home more.
“The most valuable thing was to have a sense of the world and of Saskatchewan’s place in it — to realize that every place is different and has something to offer, including this one,” he said. “You appreciate every place better, including the one you come from, when you have seen others.”
Kelly says the thing she most looks forward to is meeting people from all over the world.
“Obviously the schooling, the education is going to be really exciting, but the nice thing about the Rhodes [scholarship] is that they force you to meet people and engage with people who are completely outside your discipline, and I am really look forward to that,” she said.
Before she gets carried away with planning for England, Kelly has to finish her last year at the U of S. However, she has already been warned by her family about picking up bad habits while she’s in England.
“I’ve been told I’m not allowed to come home with an English accent,” Kelly said. “I’m proud of my Canadian accent, so that’s not going to happen.”[box type=”info”]According to two separate rankings, the University of Oxford is one of the five top schools in the world. It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest overall after the University of Bologna in Italy. Although there is no firm date for its foundation, some form of teaching has existed since 1096.
Top Universities in the World:
source: QS World University Rankings 2011-12[/box]
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf