A nationally competitive mountain biker who has worked in Sudanese hospitals. A parasite expert from Georgia. A research analyst at the Federal Trade Commission with a passion for bringing local agriculture to low-income communities.
These are among the 32 American students who will soon head to the University of Oxford as Rhodes Scholars, the so-called "oldest and best-known award for international study" that exists, as the Rhodes Trust announced Sunday. Selected scholars receive funding for two to four years of study at Oxford and must undergo a rigorous application process to be considered for the award. The winning scholars for 2011 were chosen from 837 applicants from 309 schools.
This year's crop is unique in several ways -- women outnumber men for the third time since 1976, even though men made up 54 percent of the applicants (the winning pool includes 17 women and 15 men). Two scholars come from South Dakota for the first time in history. And there are two new colleges represented by winners: Ursinus College and the University of California-Irvine.
Created in 1902, Rhodes Scholarships were founded by the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist. According the American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust, Elliot F. Gerson, criteria for selection include "high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor."
See more about the 2011 winners and the scholarship here.