This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Dec. 1.
Four Yale students were chosen this year for Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, two of the most prestigious fellowships for academic study in England.
On Nov. 21, The Rhodes Trust — the body that oversees the Rhodes Scholarship — announced that Mason Ji ’16, Jared Milfred ’16 and Isaac Stanley-Becker ’16 were selected from a pool of 869 applicants for the award, which covers all expenses for living, travel and tuition during two to three years of postgraduate study at Oxford University.
The Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission announced Monday that Skyler Ross ’16 would receive full funding to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in creative producing at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Unlike the Rhodes Scholarship, the Marshall Scholarship covers tuition for any institution of higher education in Great Britain, which affords applicants more choice in pursuing programs in their respective fields.
Applicants from Yale have been successful in earning Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships throughout the years: In the past four years, 20 Yale students have been named Rhodes Scholars, and 11 have been named Marshall Scholars. Jane Edwards, director of the Center for International and Professional Experience, said having winners of major national and international awards is often seen as emblematic of the academic caliber of an institution.
Though this year saw a drop from the six Marshall Scholarship winners of 2014, Director of National Fellowships Kate Dailinger said fluctuations in the number of winners speak to how competitive the selection process is. Last year’s figure was the highest number of Yale awardees in 30 years. The amount of award winners had oscillated between zero and four in the three years prior.
Harvard had the most Rhodes Scholars this year — five in all — and Princeton had three Marshall Scholars, the most of any other university.
“We’re honored to have a Yale senior among the new class of Marshall Scholars, and we’re fortunate that Yale applicants have done well over the years despite the extremely competitive nature of this competition,” Dailinger said. “Although last year there were six Yale Marshall Scholars, that’s really an extraordinary number.”
The Marshall Scholarship released the names of the 2016 winners Monday morning, but Ross said the chair of the New York regional selection committee called him more than two weeks ago with the news. A history major, Ross has been an active participant in the theater community at Yale, working on over 20 productions and taking on leadership roles in the Yale Dramatic Association and the Yale Drama Coalition.
Ross said he will use his time at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to further study the role of a producer “in the real world,” adding that he appreciated the program’s emphasis on producing as a creative act rather than a logistical one.
“I love the work — I love what it can say about humanity and how it can teach people to be an empathetic person,” Ross said. “Those are things that I value very highly.”
Ross added that the Marshall Scholarship will give him a chance to learn more practical methods in theater that were not available to him at Yale.
All four Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship winners expressed disbelief at being chosen for the honors, adding that the selection processes for the scholarships were humbling.
“I’m still sort of pinching myself, to be honest,” Milfred said. “It doesn’t seem real yet.”
According to The Rhodes Trust, the organization looks for students with “outstanding intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service.” Overall, 32 American students were selected for the award and will enroll at Oxford in October 2016.
Consideration for both the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships requires students to undergo a rigorous two-step application process. Applicants must first be endorsed by their respective universities, which at Yale requires a separate interview process taking place early in the fall semester. The strongest candidates are then invited to interview with representatives from the organizations.
Milfred, an ethics, politics and economics major who intends to pursue a master’s degree in political theory at Oxford, said he flew to Seattle along with other finalists from his district last weekend for the last phase of interviews. Yalies swept District 14, with Milfred and Ji winning both scholarships awarded to students from the Pacific Northwest.
Stanley-Becker, a history major and former editor-in-chief of the News, said he wants to use the scholarship to study transnational urban history before diving into a career as a journalist, adding that history and journalism are interwoven in fundamental ways.
He said that during his interview last weekend, representatives from The Rhodes Trust asked him mostly about his own aspirations as a journalist, in addition to his knowledge of current events such as the terror attacks in Paris and Beirut and recent demonstrations against the racial climate that occurred on Yale’s own campus.
“They really try to push your buttons a bit and see how you react on the spot,” Ji said of the interview. A global affairs major who plans to study international relations at Oxford, Ji said he wants to use his time in England to tie together previous work he has done in diplomacy with academic theory in the discipline.
Milfred also said a deeper understanding of theory as well as empirical tools in political science would inform future work in politics. Both Milfred and Ji said they want to attend law school after their time at Oxford.
All four scholarship recipients said they were grateful to members of the CIPE for their guidance throughout the process. Stanley-Becker said he received a great deal of help from the CIPE with interview preparation, and from former scholars who talked to him about their own applications. Milfred and Ji also emphasized the advising role of professors and other students in the application process, as well as help from Dailinger.
Dailinger said in turn that she appreciated the help of faculty, administrators and alumni who aided her in advising students throughout the process.
“An important part of my job is trying to foster connections and good conversations between people, so that every applicant can learn from the process, regardless of the outcome of a particular application,” Dailinger said.
Still, Stanley-Becker noted that some parts of the application are solitary endeavors, like the 1,000-word personal statement students must complete independently.
Last year, 10 Yale students and one alumnus were selected to be Rhodes and Marshall Scholars.