A Trinidadian has won the 2013 Commonwealth Caribbean Rhodes scholarship.
Cornelius Kiron Neale, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine campus, beat five other applicants from Jamaica, Barbados and Dominica to win what is considered to be the most prestigious postgraduate scholarship in the world.
Neale, this year's valedictorian for the Faculty of Science and Agriculture (the final valedictorian as the Faculty was separated into two this year), is only the tenth Trinidadian to win the Commonwealth Caribbean Rhodes scholarship since its inception—the last Trinidadian to win was another UWI graduate, Kyla Thomas, in 2003.
While at Oxford University in England, where the award is tenable, Neale intends to pursue a master's in environmental change and management, with an emphasis on climate change and its repercussions for the Caribbean.
Coming from Marabella, Neale said he is "quite humbled by the moment", and he believes "his ambition for the Caribbean region" may have given him the edge over the other students.
"My main area is energy and the environment," he explained. "I plan on diversifying the region's energy, in terms of solar energy. That is my particular area of research, especially with Trinidad and Tobago and the hydrocarbons that we have been using.
"I have done my research on governmental housing to get away from the conventional oil and gas, and it is something that can be spread throughout the Caribbean because we are blessed with a lot of solar and alternative energy. I think my ambition to drive the Caribbean forward into using renewable energy might be a key factor that may have played out today," he said.
Secretary of the selection committee Peter Goldson, a former Jamaica Rhodes scholar, said all of the candidates were worthy, but Neale's interview put him over the top.
"We had to make sure that the candidates were of a very high calibre," explained Goldson. "The committee tries to test them to see who is the strongest. In our discussions at the end, there were a number of them who were in contention as the possible winner.
"But the committee thought that Mr Neale was most deserving of the scholarship this year. We are delighted to have announced him as the winner."