One Yale undergraduate and one Yale Law School student are among the 32 students nationwide that have been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship this year, the scholarship committee announced last week.
Ben Eidelson ’08 and Isra Bhatty LAW ’10 were selected from among 764 American students attending 294 different colleges and universities to receive one of the most prestigious postgraduate fellowhips available to English-speaking students. The University of Chicago each has three American Rhodes Scholarship winners, and Harvard, Princeton and Stanford universities each have two American winners and one student who won the international version of the scholarship.
Winners receive two or three years of fully funded study at the University of Oxford in England. Four Yale College students and one student in the Graduate School were awarded Rhodes Scholarships last year.
“We’ve been very fortunate in recent years that our students have been so successful,” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said in an e-mail Sunday night. “The staff of the IEFP Office has done a fabulous job once again.”
Eidelson, a political science and philosophy double major in Ezra Stiles College who plans to study legal philosophy at Oxford, said he is “incredibly grateful” to friends, family and professors for their support during the semester-long application process.
“Going into it, I didn’t realize how much of a collective effort it is,” he said. “It really feels like sort of a collective victory.”
Outside of the classroom, Eidelson leads the online advocacy effort “24 Hours for Darfur” — an online video campaign aiming to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur — and is a public-school intern at the New Haven Academy, where he coaches the school’s debate team and runs the Robotics Club.
Law professor Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 and philosophy professor Shelly Kagan encouraged him to apply for the scholarship, Eidelson said. Amar said the breadth of Eidelson’s academic interests — he has taken several Law School courses and published a paper in the Yale Law Review, Amar said — made him a prime candidate for the scholarship.
“I’m hoping that when he’s done he’ll maybe come back and do some additional work at Yale if that’s what’s in the cards,” Amar said.
Eidelson’s diversity of interests and outstanding academic record made him stand out as a candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship, Kate Dailinger, associate director for UK and Irish fellowships at the Yale Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs said. Dailinger worked with Eidelson this semester to help prepare his application.
Ezra Stiles College Dean Jennifer Wood said she admires Eidelson’s dedication to social-justice issues in New Haven and Darfur.
“I have no doubt that he will leave his mark on this world and will do so through innovative scholarship, spirited advocacy, tireless teaching and/or committed activism,” Wood said in an e-mail.
Bhatty, who did her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago, said she plans to take a two-year leave from the Law School to study at Oxford before returning to Yale to complete her law degree.
Bhatty did not know much about the Rhodes Scholarship before beginning the application process and was “shocked and overwhelmed” to find out she had won, she said. Her husband encouraged her to apply for the scholarship, Bhatty said.
With experience working with Chicago’s inner-city Muslim population, Bhatty said she plans to study evidence-based social intervention during her two years at Oxford.
Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said he thinks both Oxford and Bhatty will benefit from her time there.
“This honor will afford Isra a remarkable educational and cultural experience, and a unique opportunity to reflect and build upon her first year of legal study,” Koh said in an e-mail.
Both Bhatty and Eidelson originally hail from Pennsylvania.
Dailinger said she thinks this year’s relatively low number of Yale winners is mostly due to random variation from year to year.
The fact that the selection committee for the Rhodes Scholarship aims to choose students from a wide variety of institutions may explain this year’s low number of Yalies who won the scholarship, she said. According to the Web site of the American secretary of the trust that administers the scholarship, almost every year a scholar is chosen from an institution that has never graduated a winner before.
“I think especially after a year when there were a lot [of winners], it wouldn’t be surprising to see fewer,” Dailinger said. “It’s not that there aren’t wonderful candidates or there are not wonderful fellowship advisers. It’s just the way it goes.”
Created in 1902 in accordance with a provision in the will of De Beers diamond company founder Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, leadership potential, integrity of character and physical vigor of candidates, according to the scholarship’s Web site. Scholars are also chosen from current and former British Commonwealth nations.