A Philadelphia native who studies at Harvard University and has advanced proficiency in eight languages is one of 32 winners of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship announced Sunday.
Rivka B. Hyland, who spent her freshman year of high school at Friends Select School in Center City before transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, will study for two to three years, expenses paid, at the University of Oxford in England.
The winners were selected from among 869 applicants nominated by 316 colleges and universities.
The 32 winners also include a student from the University of Pennsylvania and another who calls northern New Jersey home.
Jennifer C. Hebert, a Pittsburgh native and senior at the University of Pennsylvania, is a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team and studies the mechanisms underlying memory. Evan J. Soltas of Rumson, N.J., a senior at Princeton University, is an economics major who writes extensively on economic issues and in high school became a regular contributor to Bloomberg News and the Washington Post.
Hyland, 20, was named a winner Saturday night, after a full-day selection event held at Haverford College. Hyland said she and 11 other finalists were interviewed there the morning, then waited seven hours while the selection board deliberated.
She called the finalists "11 of the most brilliant and interesting people I've ever met," and said the students bonded while awaiting a decision.
"We went through all the phases of talking and napping and reading and talking again," she said Sunday afternoon, while on a train headed back to Boston. "In some ways I feel like I'm still in that room and this is just a dream I'm having."
Hyland said two winners were selected from among the 12 at Haverford.
"At first I didn't believe my ears," she said. "I kept taking all the eye contact all the committee members were giving me as confirmation that he actually said my name."
Hyland - who was born in Philadelphia and whose parents, Richard and Sharka Hyland, live near Rittenhouse Square - plans to pursue an advanced postgraduate research degree in scholastic theology while at Oxford. At Harvard, she majors in Islamic studies and holds a particular interest in how medieval philosophy, with roots in ancient Greece, can offer insights into modern attitudes toward international and intercultural understanding.