Madelyn Letendre Wins Prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

The names of the 32 Americans chosen as Rhodes Scholars, including C1C Madelyn Letendre, were announced over the weekend by Ramona L. Doyle, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust.

Letendre, a member of the Air Force women’s swim team, will attend Oxford University to pursue an M.Sc. in Therapeutic and Translational Neuroscience as well as a Master of Public Policy.

“I am so excited and honored to receive this scholarship,” said Letendre. “It’s an incredible opportunity for me to expand my understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through the lenses of neuroscience and policy. I hope to use the academic experience I gain at Oxford to improve mental health policies within the Air Force.”

Letendre, a biochemistry major, has conducted research on disability support services in the military, getting a Stamps Scholarship to finance her research and winning the USAFA Humanities Division Research Award.

Dr. Doyle described this year’s class: “This year’s Rhodes Scholars representing the United States–elected by 16 independent committees around the country meeting simultaneously– will go to Oxford University in England in October 2024 to pursue graduate degrees across the breadth of the social sciences, humanities, and biological and physical sciences. They inspire us already with their accomplishments, but even more by their values-based leadership and selfless ambitions to improve their communities and the world.”

Rhodes Scholarships cover all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford, which is ranked first in the world in certain worldwide rankings, and may provide financing for up to four years in some cases. Dr. Doyle called the Rhodes Scholarships, “the oldest and best-known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.”

The Scholarships were established in 1902 by Cecil Rhodes’ Will and are granted in collaboration with the Second Century Founders, John McCall MacBain O.C., and The Atlantic Philanthropies, as well as many other generous benefactors. The first cohort of American Rhodes Scholars arrived at Oxford in 1904; those chosen today will arrive in October 2024.

Rhodes Scholars are selected in two stages. First, applicants must receive approval from their college or university. This year, over 2,500 students began the application process, with 862 receiving approval from 249 different colleges and universities. The strongest applicants are then invited to appear before Selection Committees in each of the 16 U.S. districts for interviews. All districts interviewed at least 14 finalists.

American Secretary Doyle explained that applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. “These criteria include first and fundamentally, academic excellence. This is a critical but only threshold condition. A Rhodes Scholar should also have great ambition for social impact, and an uncommon ability to work with others to achieve one’s goals. They should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be acutely conscious of inequities.”

Dr. Doyle added that “although the Trust strives for the most inclusive application pool possible through outreach and other efforts, consideration of balance or diversity are not factors in selection at either the national or district level.” And finally, she said, “a Rhodes Scholar should show great promise of leadership. In short, we seek outstanding young people of intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an important and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’s words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.’”

The 32 Rhodes Scholars selected from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from 25 other jurisdictions (more than 70 nations) around the world, as well as two Scholars from any country in the world that does not have its own Scholarship for the fifth year.

This year, over a hundred Rhodes Scholars will be chosen internationally, including individuals who attended American colleges and universities but are not US citizens and applied through their native country.

Following the announcement of the results today, 3,642 Americans have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships, representing 327 schools and universities. Women have been permitted to apply since 1976, and 663 American women have now won the coveted award. More than 2,000 American Rhodes Scholars live throughout the United States and abroad.

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