Rhodes scholarship to Brendan Alexander
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Jan 18, 2011  |  Vote 0    0

Rhodes scholarship to Brendan Alexander

Ottawa East News

The Rhodes scholarship at the University of Oxford in England is the oldest and perhaps most prestigious international scholarship program in the world. A Rhodes scholarship is often viewed as an investment in an individual of remarkable promise rather than support for a particular program of postgraduate study. One of these individuals who has been awarded a Rhodes scholarship and will be attending Oxford this fall to begin two years of study there hails from Stittsville.

He is 21 year old Brendan Alexander who will be graduating this year at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston where he has studied history and economics.

“Growing up in Stittsville has definitely had an impact on who I am today,” Brendan wrote in an email response. While he attended Ashbury College in Ottawa from grades 4 through 12, he remained very involved in a wide range of sports, camps and other Stittsville-based activities during his childhood.

“It was a great community in which to grow up and it is the only place I would truly call home,” he added in his email.

Brendan will be leaving for the University of Oxford in late September, with his first term there beginning in early October. He will be studying at Oxford for two years, completing a Master of Philosophy in International Relations. And while he will be studying international relations, his thesis will likely focus on guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency which are the areas where his academic interests to date have been. More specifically, he will probably be studying the relations between states which are involved in such guerrilla wars and the local governments with which they collaborate to defeat such an insurgency.

At Oxford, his educational experience will include both taught and individual research elements. His first year starting this fall will consist largely of classes, lectures, seminars and one-on-one tutoring with an academic advisor. His second year will largely be taken up with writing his thesis.

This spring Brendan will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery and he will retain this rank while studying at Oxford, including continuing to receive his salary. However, his Oxford studying will add two more years of mandatory service that he will owe the Canadian Forces, adding to the five that he will already owe upon graduation at RMC.

When he is finished at Oxford, he will resume his career as an artillery officer in the Canadian Forces. Right now he does not know if he will make the Canadian Forces a lifelong career but he does admit that he has enjoyed his military involvement to date. One future possibility might be teaching, perhaps returning to RMC as a professor.

He feels that his military training and study regimen at RMC helped him meet the Rhodes scholarship criteria. Indeed, RMC, whose motto is “Truth, Duty, Valour,” is designed to produce officers with the exact qualities sought in Rhodes scholarship candidates.

Brendan feels that his RMC experience set him apartment from other Rhodes scholarship candidates. While he had the academic credentials, he also had, through his military commitment, shown his willingness to “fight the world’s fight,” which was a rallying call for public service used by Rhodes scholarship founder Cecil Rhodes in setting up the scholarship program.

The thought of applying for a Rhodes scholarship was first planted in his mind way back at the end of his first year at RMC by his mother who made the suggestion after Brendan had done well in both his military and academic pursuits that year. He did not take his mother’s suggestion seriously at first but the seed that had been planted took root in his fourth year at RMC when he heard a presentation on the Rhodes scholarship program, specifically about how well-rounded RMC cadets were ideal candidates for the scholarship.

By this point, Brendan had been active at RMC not only in academics but in sports, music, art and volunteer work, so he thought that he might as well, as he puts it, “give it a shot” and that’s what he did, with the outcome being that he was one of the 11 Canadians selected to be a Rhodes scholar starting in 2011.

Besides being a fourth year Officer Cadet at RMC, he has held a variety of leadership positions there as well as serving as a Troop Commander in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

The day-to-day activities at RMC are run entirely by cadet leadership in order to develop leaders. In his last semester, Brendan was selected as a Cadet Squadron Leader, placing him in command of about 80 cadets. As such, he was responsible for their training, physical fitness, discipline, dress, deportment, passing of orders and coordination with other RMC squadrons.

“The exceptional leadership training we receive at RMC and during our summer military training is what sets RMC apart from other civilian universities,” Brendan comments. Last summer, Brendan completed his Phase 3 Troop Commander qualification at Valcartier in Quebec. This past fall, he was awarded the Nicola Goddard artillery sword.

But his time at RMC has been more than just studies and leadership training. He has been playing music in one capacity or another since being in grade three. He has his Grade 10 accreditation from the Royal Conservatory of Music in piano and he played clarinet and baritone saxophone in the jazz and concert bands at Ashbury College. At RMC, he has played piano in the RMC stage band while also playing acoustic guitar on his own time. He is also very involved in art, specifically working in pastel and pen and ink as well as photography.

Indeed, Brendan hopes to continue his involvement with both music and art while at Oxford, likely through informal student clubs, associations, choral groups and orchestras.

Brendan also is active physically, including running, weightlifting, soccer, hockey and coaching the RMC Combat Fitness Club.

Brendan’s selection for a Rhodes scholarship has resulted in expressions of praise from those at RMC.

“This recognition not only speaks to the incredible talents of Officer Cadet Alexander, but also to the tremendous success of the RMC program,” said Commodore William Truelove, Commandant of RMC.

“We are extremely proud of Mr. Alexander and feel that his selection reflects well not only upon him personally but also on the entire RMC cadet community,” said RMC principal Joel Sokolsky.

“He is a role model on our campus of an individual who is exceptionally well rounded and accomplished,” said associate professor Laura Robinson of the Department of English at RMC.

“As a dynamic leader, a promising scholar, an amazing athlete, a compassionate and generous volunteer, a talented musician and a well rounded, creative and imaginative individual (not to mention a cool guy), Brendan is well deserving of this prestigious scholarship,” RMC English professor Michael Hurley wrote.

Up until now, there have been 12 Rhodes scholars who attended RMC as cadets, going back to 1946.

Only 11 Canadians a year are selected to join the 84 Rhodes scholars from around the world who attend the University of Oxford.

Intellectual excellence is required of Rhodes scholars but selection involves more than just educational accomplishments.

Cecil Rhodes, founder of the Rhodes scholarship program in 1902, emphasized in his will that these scholarships were to be an investment in and development of outstanding leaders who would be motivated to “fight the world’s fight.” His four criteria for selection, as outlined in his will, were literary and scholastic attainments; energy to use one’s talents to the full; truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the week, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; and moral force of character and instincts to lead and to take an interest in one’s fellow beings.

Rhodes, a British born entrepreneur who made a fortune on diamond mines in southern Africa, was himself a graduate of the University of Oxford in 1882. Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world and is unique for its system of intimate tutorial education and residential colleges. Rhodes wanted his scholarship recipients to benefit from their time at Oxford and hoped that Rhodes scholars would go on to engage in work that would show their concern for others and would make a positive difference in the world.

Canadian Rhodes scholars have include former Prime Minister John Turner, for New Democratic Party leader David Lewis, former Saskatchewan premier Allen Blakeney, former Newfound premier Danny Williams, former Ontario premier Bob Rae, and neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield.

A Rhodes scholarship includes tuition, college fees and a stipend covering living expenses for two years at the University of Oxford. The scholarship is considered worth at least $50,000 per year.

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