Five Rhodes finalists named

Melissa Weigel

One of the most prestigious scholarship competitions in the world has named a record five University students as finalists. Seniors Ryan Costella, Nicholas Falco, Tom Grace, Bruce O’Neill and Krista Pietrangelo were all named first round finalists for the Rhodes scholarship, which entails two years of post-graduate study at Oxford University.

The University has never produced so many Rhodes finalists in one year, as only eight of its students have been selected since 1973.

The scholarship committee selected seniors from over 1,000 nationwide applicants and seven University applicants.

“This year is the best success we’ve ever had,” Jane Morris, director of Undergraduate Grants and Awards, said.

The scholarship committee selects approximately 100 students annually as finalists. Then, a committee from each finalist’s state interviews each candidate. A student can apply either through his or her home state or the state in which he or she studies.

From this first round of interviews, regional finalists are chosen. Another interview is conducted by each region, and finally, four scholars from each of the eight regions are selected.

“It is a very prestigious award,” Morris said. “Ten, 15 years ago, it used to be only Ivy League students who were getting these awards. To think that five Villanova students are in that top group is really awesome.”

Now, with the advent of the National Association of Fellowship Advisors, students from public universities and smaller private universities are encouraged to apply and are receiving more information about national scholarships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and Fulbright.

“Because Villanova has made the commitment [to encourage students to apply for these fellowships], that’s why we’ve been so successful,” Morris said. Morris holds information sessions about national fellowships and visits core humanities classes to introduce students to these types of awards.

O’Neill and Pietrangelo received Connolley-Delouvrier scholarships during their junior year, which they used to study at Oxford during the spring 2003 semester. These scholarships allow University honors students to spend a semester studying abroad. O’Neill and Pietrangelo, are also finalists for the nationally-based Truman scholarship.

Since 1973, there have been eight other University students named as finalists for the Rhodes fellowship.

Only two have won: Nnenna Lynch in 1992 and Rebecca Spies in 1995, both members of the women’s track team.

Anyone can apply for the scholarship. Although this scholarship is an academic one, emphasis is also placed on one’s “physical vigor.”

In recent years this has changed to include all kinds of physical activity, performers and Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

The scholarship originated from Cecil Rhodes’ desire to memorialize the British Empire, and it was given to future world leaders.