After conquering a grueling three-stage selection process, Christopher W. Wells ’04 will join the other 31 American Rhodes Scholars headed for Oxford next fall.
Chosen from a pool of 963 applicants endorsed by 366 colleges and universities, Wells and the other Rhode Scholars received news of their selection on November 22.
Wells — a varsity soccer player, student in the “Studies in Grand Strategy” program, Phi Beta Kappa history major, and active participant in Yale’s theater community — said he was humbled by the number of qualified candidates he met during the application procedure.
“You go into it with the realization that the process is a roll of the dice, and it would take incredible luck to be selected,” he said.
History professor John Gaddis, who has taught Wells in three different courses, including the selective “Studies in Grand Strategy” program, said he could not think of a more deserving recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship.
“He does a lot of different things and he does them all superbly well,” Gaddis said. “This includes academics, athletics and everything else.”
As part of the three-stage selection process, successful applicants for the scholarship secure an endorsement from their college or university, attend interviews at the state and regional levels, and are ultimately approved by committees in one of eight designated districts across the country.
Wells’s mother Sherry said she was proud of her son’s accomplishments. She said the personal attention her son has received from University professors has contributed to his success.
“Chris has greatly benefited from Yale’s talented faculty, who are not only distinguished scholars but also dedicated teachers,” she said.
Varsity soccer player Luke Rona ’04, who plays with Wells, said dedication and ambition are qualities that helped his friend accomplish great feats on and off the field.
“Chris perseveres and finds a way,” Rona said. “He doesn’t ever sell himself short, and he’s someone who has big ideas about how he can help.”
Though he plans to obtain a Masters of Philosophy in modern Middle Eastern studies at Oxford, Wells said he did not always plan to pursue a career in the humanities.
“I came out of high school wanting to be an astrophysicist,” he said.
Wells said taking a math course his freshman year along with liberal arts courses in “Directed Studies” convinced him to continue the study of history. After taking more history courses, Wells decided to apply for the “Studies in Grand S`trategy” program, a class he said was instrumental in his selection as Rhodes Scholar.
“The key experiences for me have been the Grand Strategy program, my time in Cairo, playing on the soccer team and my experience with theater,” Wells said.
Wells, who spent one summer interning with the U.S. Department of Defense and another learning Arabic in Cairo, said he plans to spend next summer traveling with friends and possibly working for a nongovernmental organization in Iraq.
Wells said he would advise someone applying for the Rhodes Scholarship to demonstrate a keen interest in a particular activity.
“The most important thing in the process is to show what you’re passionate about,” he said.
The 32 U.S. recipients are among about 95 International Rhodes Scholars chosen from around the world each year. Based on the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes Scholars are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.
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