Two Yale students have been awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship this year for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England, the Office of Fellowship Programs announced Thursday.

Joshua Silverstein ’10 and Amy Watson ’10, both history majors in Jonathan Edwards College, will pursue masters of philosophy beginning this coming October — Silverstein in international relations and Watson in early modern history.

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Established in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the highly competitive Gates Cambridge Scholarship has been awarded to 29 American students this year, from a pool of approximately 800 applicants. Harvard boasted the largest number of scholarship recipients with four students named Gates scholars. The University of Pennsylvania had three winners, and Stanford University also had two recipients.

According to its Web site, the Gates Cambridge Trust awards scholarships according to four main criteria: intellectual ability, leadership potential, a commitment to improving the lives of others and whether the candidate is a good fit with Cambridge. Last year, four Yale students received the scholarship.

Silverstein, who is from New York City, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and participated in last year’s “Studies in Grand Strategy” seminar. He is also a member of the Jonathan Edwards Student Activities Committee and has performed in over a dozen theatrical productions.

“I wanted to study international relations in a new environment filled with diverse and often conflicting opinions that would force me to deepen and broaden my own understanding of the security dilemmas of the 21st century,” Silverstein said in an e-mail. He added that the Gates Cambridge Scholarship was particularly appealing because of its focus on the application of that knowledge to improve the lives of others.

Watson, who hails from Birmingham, Ala., said she always wanted to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom because her primary field of interest is early modern English history.

At Yale, Watson is involved with the Yale Children’s Theater and has run its “Hands On!” workshop for 4- to 11-year old children for two years. She also acts in YCT shows and will appear in the company’s production of “The Ugly Duckling” next week.

Like Silverstein, Watson said she applied to the Gates Cambridge Scholarship because of its service focus. She said she plans to write her dissertation on the connections between anti-dissent propaganda and anti-Whig propaganda in the late 17th century.

Yale U.K. and Irish Fellowships Associate Director Katherine Dailinger said she is delighted for Silverstein and Watson, who traveled to Annapolis, Md., amid blizzard conditions to interview for the scholarship last week.

Dailinger added that she hopes that after the scholarship’s international student winners are announced, additional Yale students will join the pair.

Interviews for international students are scheduled for late March.