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UW-Eau Claire One of Few Public Regionals
with a Rhodes Scholar Among Its Students

RELEASED: Jan. 4, 2005

EAU CLAIRE — Just a handful of the 3,000-plus Rhodes Scholars named during the 103-year history of the program have attended regional public institutions like the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, an analysis of the program's history indicates.

More than 300 colleges and universities have had Rhodes Scholars since the program began in 1902 but only about 2 percent of those institutions fall into the public master's category. Of the 3,043 scholarships awarded, less than .5 percent has been awarded to students attending those regional publics.

"Having a Rhodes Scholar from a school like UW-Eau Claire is unusual but not unprecedented," said Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust. "Historically, we have had few winners from public institutions other than the flagship universities. Frankly, we've had few applicants from such institutions. It's quite a daunting competition and it may be that some very strong students attending institutions that are not as nationally selective feel insecure about applying."

Chauncy S. Harris, a senior history and geography major at UW-Eau Claire, was among the 32 American students selected as 2005 Rhodes Scholars. He will begin his studies at Oxford University in October 2005.

"We’re delighted that he won," Gerson said of Harris. "We hope his selection encourages other outstanding students from smaller institutions to apply as well. There is nothing like success to encourage others from similar schools to try."

While most scholarship winners come from private or large public institutions, Gerson stresses that individuals, not institutions, win the awards. "It's important to the Rhodes program that outstanding individuals apply for the award regardless of the size of their school," he said.

Rhodes Scholar applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set in the will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor. The characteristics are directed at fulfilling Rhodes's hopes that Rhodes Scholars make effective and positive contributions throughout the world.

Thanks to Harris, UW-Eau Claire faculty and administrators are learning more about the process of applying for prestigious awards like the Rhodes Scholarship, said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash.

"We're going to take a look at how we prepare and nurture our promising students for these prestigious awards," Mash said. "Chauncy Harris has reminded us that the best and brightest at UW-Eau Claire can compete with the best and brightest students from public and private higher education institutions throughout the country."

The Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a three-stage process. Candidates must first be endorsed by their college or university. Committees of selection in each of the 50 states then nominate candidates to be interviewed by district selection committees in eight regions of the country. Each district committee makes a final selection of four Rhodes Scholars. Ninety-six applicants from 59 colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition this year.

Candidates can apply either in the state where they are a legal resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. In the state and regional competitions, Harris competed against students from a number of elite colleges and universities. Other 2005 Rhodes Scholars elected from District V — Harris's district — are students or graduates of the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and Harvard.

UW-Eau Claire helped prepare him for the Rhodes program by providing a strong curriculum, exceptional research opportunities and accessible faculty, Harris said.

"The great relationships I have with faculty helped keep me challenged and allowed me to go beyond the work and experiences that are typical of college," Harris said. "UW-Eau Claire proves that you don't have to pay $50,000 a year to get a great education."

That combination of outstanding faculty and a dynamic living and learning environment is attracting an increasing number of high-achieving students to UW-Eau Claire, Mash said. "This is the kind of place that is very attractive to students who — like Chauncy — want challenge and rigor in academic programs," he said.

UW System President Kevin Reilly said Harris is "one among the UW System's 160,000 students for whom higher education has indeed been a life-changing experience."

In addition to recognizing Harris' individual accomplishment, "we take pride in knowing that Chauncy credits UW-Eau Claire for preparing him for the Rhodes program," Reilly said.



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