The Rhodes scholarship at the
University of Oxford
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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.