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Academy cadet named Rhodes Scholar

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Veronica Ward
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
An Air Force cadet senior distance runner was awarded one of 32 Rhodes Scholarships for 2014 on Nov. 22.

Cadet 1st Class Rebecca Esselstein, from Dayton, Ohio, is a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy majoring in astronautical engineering and the Academy's 38th recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, and the 12th cadet-athlete to earn the honor.

Currently serving as a flight commander, Esselstein is a three-time member of the dean's aces list and has been named to the superintendent's list for excellence in military, academic and athletic performance in five of six semesters. She has done research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on radar and infrared signatures, and was an Aspen Institute Socrates Program Scholar studying the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I couldn't have done this without all the help and support I've had along the way," Esselstein said. "My mentors within the faculty have been exceptional, and so has my support system both in squad and down at the track."

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best known award for international study, were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. Applicants are chosen on the basis of criteria set in the will, including high academic achievement, integrity of character, potential for leadership, and commitment to making a strong difference in the world.

Esselstein was selected as a Marshall Scholarship recipient earlier this fall. The Marshall Scholarship covers two years of tuition and living expenses at top institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick and the London School of Economics in any field of study. Up to 40 talented, independent and wide-ranging Marshall Scholars are selected each year, according to the Marshall Scholarship website. The scholarship is funded through the British government and was named in honor of legendary U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall.

"It doesn't feel real," Esselstein said. "I've been working toward this since February, and I can't count the number of runs I've had thinking about what I wanted to put in my personal statement or what it would be like to get the scholarship. I've very excited, though a little nervous, to be honest. I hope to pursue my passion for space and study astrophysics at Oxford."