Two U.S. Military Academy seniors were named Rhodes scholars and will join 30 other American representatives at the University of Oxford in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in their chosen field of study.
Class of 2013 Cadets Kiley Hunkler, from St. Louis, and Class of 2013 Cadet Evan Szablowski, from Bakersfield, Calif., spent the weekend in their respective districts competing for the scholarships before the announcements were made Nov. 17.
Hunkler, an engineering psychology major with the highest academic average in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, said she was informed by the Rhodes selection panel after an intense deliberation period that followed two interviews.
“I was elated at the news, and I feel incredibly humbled to have been selected out of the 13 incredibly talented finalists in my district,” Hunkler said. “Being named a Rhodes scholar means that I have a unique opportunity to work, study and live with incredibly talented individuals from all over in an effort to make a difference in the world. Now, I have to truly take advantage of this unbelievable opportunity.”
Hunkler first called home to deliver the announcement to her family, but news reached the Corps of Cadets soon after.
“My first phone call was to my mother, who immediately started crying. My colleagues have been extremely supportive throughout this whole process and they were thrilled about this accolade,” Hunkler said. “I owe many thanks to all of those who helped me in this process and throughout my entire experience at West Point.”
Hunkler is also among a select few seniors endorsed to attend medical school following graduation in May 2013. She has interned at Walter Reed Medical Center and traveled to Ghana for an advanced individual academic development program, or AIAD, where she worked at regional hospitals.
“My experiences at West Point have shaped my desire to pursue military medicine,” Hunkler said. “My leadership detail, the Walter Reed internship and the trip to Ghana were truly the driving factors.”
Hunkler plans to pursue her master’s in global health science at Oxford, a field of study she grew passionate about from her work in Ghana.
“Army physicians treat servicemen and servicewomen as well as the local population,” Hunkler said. “Therefore, I believe an understanding of global health will help me understand the needs of my future patients. Furthermore, addressing health issues can help improve a region's stability and security.”
Hunkler is also the commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, where she is responsible for 366 fellow members of the Corps of Cadets, and is co-captain of the Army Women’s Lacrosse team.
“The Women's Lacrosse team is my support system at the academy,” she said. “As a member of this team, I found it easier to balance my schedule because I have had this terrific group of women pushing me to try my best both on and off the field. Whether we are working out together, studying together, or playing together, I know those women will be there for me and I will do anything for each and every one of them.”
The scholarship application process began last spring and Hunkler was advised throughout by Maj. Keith Benedict, Maj. Brian Babcock-Lumish and Dr. Terry Babcock-Lumish, all from the Department of Social Sciences.
“They have been incredibly helpful in providing resources and guidance, and truly prepared me for every step in this very long process,” Hunkler said.
Class of 2013 Cadet Evan Szablowski
Szablowski said he felt overwhelmed upon hearing his name called by the Rhodes selection panel.
“After it was announced, there was just pure joy and peace,” Szablowski said.
This was an achievement he had strived for long before he came to West Point—a childhood dream, he said—and will determine many of the decisions he makes later on in his career.
“This is the biggest goal I’ve ever set for myself, and I’ve achieved it,” Szablowski said. “It’s absolutely humbling to be selected. It really is a dream come true.”
Szablowski is a mathematics major whose interests are in data analytics and mass collaboration. With the Rhodes scholarship, Szablowski would like to pursue a master’s research degree in applied statistics where he would study data analytics and machine learning—a computer science field of study.
“I see huge opportunity in the field of ‘big data,’ which is kind of the buzzword right now, and I’d like to become familiar with the techniques of analyzing large data sets,” Szablowski said. “Specifically in the Army, I believe there is huge potential for applications, everything from visual imagery processing to linguistics. I want to be right in the middle of that.”
Szablowski said he spent his childhood overseas on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, and expanded his foreign travel experience as a West Point cadet when he studied at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. He has also participated in various academic projects overseas. Szablowski traveled to Ethiopia through the West Point Network Science Center to create a network model of the country’s economy with a focus on entrepreneurs. The highlight, he said, was when they presented their work to economists at the Ethiopian embassy.
Szablowski also traveled to the Czech Republic and participated in a capital markets project, also through the Network Science Center. Every cadet at West Point is required to complete a cadet troop leadership training assignment, and Szablowski traveled to Seoul, South Korea, for three weeks where he shadowed junior officers in the 524th Military Intelligence Battalion, Yongsan Garrison. He hopes to pursue an Army career in military intelligence after graduating from West Point, and he’ll know for certain Nov. 29 when the Class of 2013 cadets receive their branch notification.
Szablowski also earned distinction in 2011 as a sophomore member of the Company B-3 squad that claimed the top award at the 45th annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition—the academy’s first overall victory since 1993—and looks forward to competing again next semester with the I-3 squad.
Nearing the end of this 47-month West Point experience, Szablowski has found it hard to maintain ties with the core group of friends he’s made here, especially with him spending a semester in Morocco, and others going to Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and the U.S. Naval Academy exchange program.
“I’ve made a good group of friends here, and it seemed we were all split up last semester,” Szablowski said. “Our whole group was gone, and we always talked about how we would have this big reunion during our senior year. I haven’t really been fulfilling my end of the plans, because there have been whole weekends where I’ve stayed behind to work on essays or different preparatory requirements for the scholarship.”
Unlike Hunkler, his first call wasn’t to family, only because he needed to fulfill a promise made to a colleague. If he was named a Rhodes scholar, he told his friends they would be the first to know, and so he contacted fellow Class of 2013 Cadet Alan Moss. Coincidentally, his friends were all together at the time to share the news. After making good on that promise, Szablowski immediately called his parents. He also tried to put in calls to all the advisers in the Department of Social Sciences, to include Col. Jamie Gayton. No time for celebration, though. As soon as he returned to West Point, Szablowski had to complete a paper for his History of Military Art class due the next morning.
According to the Rhodes Trust press release, “The 32 Rhodes scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of scholars chosen from 14 other jurisdictions around the world … Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Also in the Rhodes Scholarship Class of 2013 are two midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and an ROTC cadet from the University of Virginia. Szablowski and Hunkler were among 838 endorsed candidates from 302 colleges and universities. West Point cadets have earned 92 Rhodes Scholarships since first competing in 1923.
“Our cadets continue to receive high praise in National scholar competitions. Having two Rhodes Scholars is a tribute to the excellence of our cadets, our programs and our faculty who educate and inspire them,” said Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor.