The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Despite many fellowships, SMU lags behind in Rhodes scholars

For 36 years, SMU has been stag in receiving one of the most prestigious educational fellowships in the United States.

SMU has housed 12 Truman scholars, 15 Goldwater scholars and over 20 Fulbright scholars, but only five official Rhodes scholars have come through SMU in almost an entire century.

As an international and large-scale program, the Rhodes Scholarship offers a remarkable opportunity for students.

Just 32 American college graduates are chosen through the American Rhodes scholars program.

The Rhodes Scholarship has been a rare and coveted achievement since 1902.

Rhodes scholars may study any post-graduate course offered at the University of Oxford in Britain for two years, all fees paid by the Rhodes Trust.

These applicants are selected based on scholarly achievements, strong character and potential leadership in the careers they will lead.

“They’re looking for someone who will shine,” SMU’s Rhodes scholar advisor Ed Countryman, who is a Rhodes scholar himself, said.

Countryman expressed that Rhodes is looking for future world leaders who are academically engaged in a serious way.

This is a long-term project that must be started early.

“It’s not instant,” Countryman said. “You have to be spotted out early, be mentored and encouraged.”

The Rhodes process includes preliminary applications, portfolios, recommendations and final applications ending with an extremely selective committee – not to mention the complete devotion in undergraduate studies to be a student beyond an A-plus ranking.

Advisors from Duke and Harvard have expressed to other prestigious institutions like SMU that it’s important for advisors to spot students out early who have the potential to make it.

Those chosen are students who will get into the very best graduate schools for their field, and “If you can do that,” Countryman said, “Rhodes can be good to try for.”

Those who spot potential scholars can see that this student has something huge to gain from Rhodes and will benefit from Oxford specifically.

Rhodes often caters to more scientific students than academic, yet not exclusively.

The selectors also consider that they are letting in students who must be good representations of Oxford.

It’s important to “sell yourself to the selectors as someone who will come back and be a good ambassador for Britain to this part of the world,” Countryman said.

So, it may be surprising that as prestigious as SMU is with student achievement, it has not graced Rhodes’ list of fellowship recipients since 1976.

A finalist was named in 2008, but making it past the winner’s circle is a challenge.

Ivy League universities are the only institutions that receive Rhodes scholarships often, as to where five seems like a low number for SMU.

“Given that Rhodes only gives about 35 to 40 awards a year, five in SMU’s history isn’t that bad,” Countryman said.

The 36-year period that SMU has not seen a Rhodes scholar is another possible indication that in some way, something needs to be improved to better the quality of students.

Yet, that is not the case. It is a matter of early preparation, concentration and cultivation.

“I see a good number of people [at SMU] who I thought are fully capable for Rhodes,” Countryman said. “They have that potential to achieve beyond being an A-student.”

SMU is not lagging in student quality, but perhaps no student has committed to the serious time it takes to run the race, and with that, early enough.

Students are going head-to-head with students from Yale, Cornell and Harvard.

It takes time to cultivate such success, eventually having what it takes to get in the best graduate schools for the prospective scholar’s field.

“You have to get the right person to make the decision early enough and get a civic commitment,” Countryman said.

Countryman compares it to high school football players being scouted early on for college teams.

“It’s that longtime support and mental preparation,” he said.

Countryman insists that the issue isn’t whether SMU students are of quality like Ivy League institutions or that there aren’t students at SMU who have the qualities to apply, but the simple fact that they don’t apply at all.

“I don’t think it’s any of that,” Countryman said. “It’s just that no one has simply clicked on Rhodes in good time.”


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