B.C.'s latest Rhodes Scholar is from New Denver

By Chad Skelton
Vancouver Sun

A 21-year-old competitive cross-country skier from tiny New Denver is B.C.'s latest Rhodes Scholar. Alysia Garmulewicz, currently studying climate change and sustainability at Carleton University in Ottawa, received the news on Saturday that she beat out 26 other B.C. applicants to win a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.

"I couldn't believe it," Garmulewicz said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I don't know if it's really sunk in yet."

She said she's looking forward to sharing the news with her neighbours in New Denver, population 512, when she returns for Christmas - though she suspects her mother has already told everyone.

"It's a wonderful community. You know people really well ... and it's a beautiful place to be," she said.

Garmulewicz has skied competitively since the age of 12, regularly placing in the top ten at national championships. However, she decided to give up competing last year to focus on her studies.

"I still love the sport but the commitment to racing wasn't really where my heart was," she said.

Garmulewicz said she plans to use her scholarship - worth nearly $150,000 - to complete a master's degree in geography and the environment at Oxford. She said her main interest is environmental policy and how to make governments more sustainable.

Garmulewicz said she thinks B.C.'s controversial carbon tax was a good move.

"I think it's a really good step in the right direction," she said. "People need to realize that ... [we need] to embrace a future that is going to put a price on carbon."

Andrew Wilkinson, who helps administer the Rhodes scholarship in B.C., said Garmulewicz was an obvious choice.

"She's fiercely intelligent and she's obviously an exceptional athlete," he said. "She's very engaged in public policy and listens and learns and will be a fine embodiment of what the scholarship is all about."

Wilkinson said Garmulewicz's application include reference letters from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Each year, a single student in B.C. is selected as a Rhodes Scholar, one of 11 such prizes across the country and several dozen around the world.

The scholarships were established in 1903 following the death of British diamond magnate Cecil B. Rhodes. His will stipulated that the awards should go to "not merely bookworms," but well-rounded students who were involved in community service and "manly outdoor sports such as cricket."