Three Duke students have been awarded prestigious scholarships that will allow them to continue their education abroad.

Seniors Laura Roberts and Jay Ruckelshaus have been named as recipients of the 2016 Rhodes Scholarship, which provides two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. This weekend Roberts and Ruckelshaus became the  44th and 45th students in Duke’s history to receive the Rhodes Scholarship, which is a highly selective honor. Only 32 students were chosen out of 869 applicants this year. Senior Wills Rooney has been awarded a George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which supports one year of study at a university in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Both scholarships cover full tuition, living accommodations and other expenses.

“I’m excited for the chance to meet some incredible people from around the world,” Ruckelshaus said. “[The scholarship] is great validation for everything everyone has done for me.”

Ruckelshaus—a political science major with a triple minor in philosophy, history and English—is a student member of the Duke University Board of Trustees' Academic Affairs Committee as well as a senator in Duke Student Government. He is also the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of “Eruditio,” an undergraduate humanities academic journal. In addition, Ruckelshaus founded Ramp Less Traveled, a nonprofit organization that supports students with spinal cord injuries who wish to pursue higher education.

He said he is interested in public life and service and that he hopes to become a public political thinker.

“I imagine I’ll have one foot in academia and one foot in the more direct political realm,” he said.

Roberts, a history major with a double minor in religion and political science, said that she was shocked to learn that she had won the scholarship but then became extremely excited.

“I’ve always wanted to study at Oxford because it has one of the best history programs in the world,” she said.

She explained that she plans to pursue a master’s of philosophy degree in British and European History at Oxford and then attend law school. She is interested in working as a human rights attorney in the public sector, she added.

At Duke, Roberts is the events chair for the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research and works as the vice president and director of campus affairs for the Duke International Relations Association. She also mentors elementary school girls through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.

She explained that her professors and friends encouraged her throughout the application process.

“Duke as an institution was incredibly supportive and I’m so grateful to have had that,” she said.

The application process for the scholarship began in April and students were notified if they had reached the finalist stage in late October, Ruckelshaus explained. This weekend, the 208 finalists were interviewed before the 32 recipients were chosen.

Ruckelshaus added that he enjoyed meeting the other finalists, who he said were brilliant.

“We were joking that the judges were flipping coins [to see who would receive the scholarship],” he said.

Rooney noted that he is excited to attend Maynooth University in Ireland under the Mitchell Scholarship. He plans to study the philosophy of religion and pursue a master’s degree in theology.

“I’m extremely grateful to have received this honor,” he said.

In addition, Rooney—a Program II major in markets, society and personalism—noted that he hopes to attend law school and is interested in public policy and leading public opinion.

He said that his Program II studies have been a great blessing in his life. For the past three years, he has been pursuing the academic question, “what is the human person and how does the human person flourish?”

As an undergraduate at Duke, Rooney served for two years as an a member of The Chronicle's independent editorial board. He is now a columnist for The Chronicle, and is the director of academic programming for the Duke Catholic Center. He is also a member of Duke’s NCAA Division I varsity cross-country and track team.

Rooney noted that he is eager to interact with the other recipients of the Mitchell Scholarship.

“The program is really oriented towards community,” he said. “I’m excited for the fellowship dimension.”

He explained that his professors and mentors were crucial to his success in the scholarship application process.

“This is not one individual’s accomplishment,” he said. “It’s the result of a team effort.”