Just a year ago, Vidal Arroyo ’19 had never heard of a Rhodes Scholarship.
Now, the recent Chapman University graduate is making history as Chapman’s first Rhodes Scholar, one of just 32 scholars from the U.S.
We sat down with Arroyo and Franciska Morlet, associate director of employer relations at the Career and Professional Development Office, to talk about how their guidance played a key role in helping Arroyo win a Rhodes Scholarship.
It all began when Arroyo met Morlet, who offered him a job in the Career and Professional Development Office.
Working there helped Arroyo develop his soft skills and start thinking about his career early.
“I didn’t know what a LinkedIn was before I came into the career office,” Arroyo says, laughing. “I realized ‘Oh my gosh I should have had this by now.’”
Arroyo, a first-generation college graduate, reflected on his experience:
“My parents have always wanted me to do the best, but they weren’t saying ‘college college college!’ or ‘resume resume!’ all the time. When I came to the career office it kind of opened my eyes to what it means to put yourself out there in the professional world. I realized everyone does this, it’s not being a show-off.”
Jumpstarting His Career
Through his work at the Career Center, Arroyo realized that he enjoyed project-based assignments and decided to pursue post-graduate research opportunities.
“I actually didn’t even know about the Rhodes Scholarship until June of last year. Dr. Julye Bidmead encouraged me to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship in addition to the Fulbright, and several other scholarships, too. I remember looking them up and thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m qualified for these.’ But this question led me to reach out to other students,” Arroyo says.
Vidal used Linkedin to connect with Rhodes Scholars to learn what they’d done to win the award, and whether his application was competitive enough. As it happens, it was.
“When I found out I was a finalist, I thought ‘I could actually win this thing’.” He says.
Ready for the Rhodes Ahead
Now, Arroyo is preparing for his studies that start this fall at Oxford, where he’ll complete a masters program in theology with a concentration in science and religion while studying the applications of data science to improve colorectal cancer treatments.
“I hope to be part of a new paradigm in science,” Arroyo says. “I really want to be a physician-scientist and use artificial intelligence in the treatment of cancer.”
He credits his Chapman experience for starting that journey.
Says Arroyo: “Chapman saw something in me I didn’t see in myself and believed in me before I was accomplishing anything worthwhile.”
Display image at top/From left, Franciska Morlet, associate director of Employer Relations, Vidal Arroyo, Tami Thompson, director of Employer Relations and liaison to Industry Partners Council, Jo Bandy, executive director of Career and Professional Development. The team holds a signed copy of the Chapman Magazine issue featuring Arroyo’s story.