by Kelsea Ernst, Poke Press
Samuel Gil, Student Government Association president at McNeese State University, was tapped as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, one of only 216 students from around the world to compete for the program.
Gil, a senior majoring in mass communication, will travel to Denver, Colorado, in mid-November, where he will meet the committee and the other 11 finalists from his district. The finalists will participate in interviews on Saturday, and the winners will be announced later in the month. Only two applicants from each of the 16 districts are chosen for the scholarship.
“The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and one of the most highly regarded international scholarships available,” said McNeese president Dr. Daryl Burckel. “McNeese is very proud of Sam being named a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. It is a testament of his academic achievement, character and leadership skills.”
The Rhodes Scholarship program first started in 1902. It funds two years of graduate studies for its scholars at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom. Scholars also participate in retreats, workshops, conferences, discussions and social events at Rhodes House in central Oxford.
“We’re proud of Sam for being named a finalist,” said Dr. Tracy Standley, head of the Department of Mass Communication. “He has numerous accomplishments as a leader at McNeese, and his selection highlights the caliber of students in the Department of Mass Communication. We are all wishing him luck on his interview.”
Gil, who is also a member of the McNeese Honors College, said he decided to apply after learning about the scholarship when he was in the Governor’s Fellowship Program, which allows college and university student leaders to experience public policy in action and learn the history and current affairs of the Louisiana government.
“I applied because, ultimately, nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Gil said. “If I don’t get it, then it’s no big deal; I still tried. If I do get it, then I’ll have access to immense opportunity.”
On campus, Gil has played a number of leadership roles in student organizations. He is the president of the Interfraternity Council, a member of Kappa Sigma Theta-Rho, part of the undergraduate advisory committee for Kappa Sigma Theta-Rho and a student member of the Louisiana Board of Regents.
According to the Rhodes Trust website, criteria for selection include demonstrated scholarly achievement, character, leadership potential, and commitment to others and the common good.
Gil said he appreciates the amount of support and investment from so many at McNeese, his hometown of Ville Platte, Louisiana, and from the city of Lake Charles. He said he feels confident about the upcoming interview, and he’s excited to show the committee who he is.
“Most people who receive this award are Ivy League students,” Gil said. “They’ve seen all these Ivy Leagues before, but they don’t see a lot of me, and this is exactly the angle I’m going for. They need to understand that I’m different. I’m not all prim and proper; I’m from a very small town in Louisiana, and all I’m trying to do is make people’s lives better, whatever form that takes.”
Dr. Frederick “Chip” LeMieux, McNeese’s provost and vice president for academic affairs and enrollment, said the university is looking forward to having Gil represent McNeese on a global level.
“This will be great for him, our university and the state,” LeMieux said.
Rhodes Scholars are chosen annually following a two-stage process. Applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. From there, selection committees in 16 districts review materials and invite the strongest candidates to participate in district-level interviews. Gil is a representative of District 13, which includes Louisiana, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
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