UCA's first Rhodes scholar recounts Oxford experience

Two years ago, Rhett Martin became a celebrity on the University of Central Arkansas campus when he was named the university?s first Rhodes scholar.

He was one of only 32 students from the United States, out of 925 applicants, to receive a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, one of the oldest international study awards available to American students.

Since October 2002, Martin has been studying philosophy, focusing on The Classics, at Oxford University in England. Oxford has one of the world?s most renowned programs in philosophy, and Martin has studied under many international leaders in the field including Dr. Llewelyn Morgan, an expert in Classical Latin literature.

On Jan. 7, Martin returned to campus to visit his former professors in the Honors College. He came home to spend the holidays with his family, who now reside in Little Rock. It was the first time he?d been back to the states in a year.

During his visit to campus, he chronicled some of his adventures at Oxford. He admitted that most of his time was occupied by studying. His studies take the form of individual tutorials and an occasional seminar. ?It?s much different from studying at an American university,? he explained. ?We don?t got to regular classes, it?s more like tutorials. It can be difficult for American students because this format is not as structured. It?s something I had to adapt to.?

Much of Martin?s free time was spent in the common rooms of the college. These are large lounge areas where students can socialize, read the new, and study. Meeting fellow students in the commons is how Martin has forged some lasting friendships with people from around the world. ?When we aren?t writing papers and studying, many of us go to the common rooms to read the newspapers and talk about the news.?

Martin was in England when the second Persian Gulf War began. He remembers seeing massive numbers turn out at the nearby Hyde Park ? London?s equivalent to New York?s Central Park ? to protest the war. Martin said that while it was a tense time to be abroad, he never felt in danger. ?The protests were non-violent,? he said.

His interest in the classical language Latin helped Martin secure a position in a summer study program with the Catholic Church in London. ?The Catholic Church still sends out all of its news in Latin,? Martin explained. ?So I worked under the chief Latinist and had put the Church?s news into the language.?

Among his other adventures, Martin got a chance to play football with another Arkansas native during his first weekend at Oxford. ?I was playing football with some other students out in the mud and rain when three black SUV?s pulled up and Bill Clinton got out and decided to join the game,? he said. Clinton?s daughter, Chelsea was studying at Oxford as well. Martin admitted Clinton had a strong arm and made a good quarterback.

Martin has also had an audience with the Queen of England. The year he received the Rhodes scholarship also marked a century since its establishment. In celebration of the scholarship?s anniversary, the Queen hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace and invited the class of Rhodes scholars. Martin said he enjoyed meeting the Queen and was pleased to meet other international figures such as former South African President Nelson Mandela at the reception.

Martin has now returned to Oxford where he will spend the next year and a half finishing his study of The Classics. After that is complete, he plans to return to the states and attend law school. ?I thought I wanted to be a professor, but I?ve decided I would like to go to law school and study constitutional law,? he said.

Never one to take a break from learning, during his three-week holiday at home, Martin volunteered with the presidential campaign for Gen. Wesley Clark. As a member of Clark?s policy team, Martin was responsible for keeping up with various policy issues being debated and providing the candidate with talking points.

Dr. Norbert Schedler, founding director of the UCA Honors College, expressed his pride in Martin, stating, ?What a joy to have a student like Rhett who has such a welcoming spirit to what breaks into his life.?

-Jennifer Boyett