Rhodes Scholar drawn to finance at Oxford

One of the last things Brian Coulter ever thought possible was being mentioned alongside the likes of Bill Clinton, Edwin Hubble, James Fulbright and Bob Rae.


Brian Coulter will head to Oxford University in England later this year after winning a Rhodes Scholarship.

While he has never been a president, astronomer, senator or premier, Coulter will walk the same hallowed halls of England’s Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, after earning one of the world’s most coveted academic honours.


While winning scholarships is nothing new to Coulter – he has earned 17 others in the last four years in the concurrent Engineering/Ivey program – this one certainly has his attention.


“I was just elated when I got that phone call,” says the 22-year-old Markham native, who spent “the longest day of my life” at his parents’ home awaiting the news.


“I was waiting so long for the phone to ring that I think my parents were planning on how to console me,” he jokes. “The call may have only lasted a minute but I was so ecstatic when I found out. Then 10 minutes later I was like ‘what just happened?'”


Only 11 Canadians are honoured each year, and only 90 worldwide. Coulter is the fifth Western recipient in the past 11 years and the ninth since 1980.


The scholarship entitles Coulter to study at Oxford for two, or possibly three years, covers his university fees and includes about $17,000 for living costs.


Many put tremendous pressure on themselves to achieve such a goal, but the easy-going Coulter knew the application experience alone was worth its weight in gold.


“I heard about the Rhodes Scholar program in high school and knew it was something I would shoot for.”


Coulter will receive his BESc (Mechanical Engineering) and HBA (Ivey) this year, before entering Oxford in the fall.


“This was my chance to find out what the process was all about. I didn’t want to think 10 or 15 years from now ‘what if?’.”


So with a 900-word essay – thanks to the help of Professor Emeritus Peter Neary, transcripts, resume, Dean’s Honours List (Engineering and Ivey) and six letters of reference (half of which had to be academic), Coulter gave it a shot.


Coulter’s business experience includes being a portfolio analyst with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and a research assistant with the Ivey Management Science Department. At Oxford he plans to pursue his Master’s in Mathematical and Computational Finance.


“I am drawn to Oxford in part because of the prestige of its mathematics program, but also because of its house system and the collegiality that this fosters,” says Coulter. “The house system creates a strong bond among members of a college, who support one another both academically and socially.”


He adds he’s familiar with this constructive process through his residence don position and believes it to be integral to a strong university community. 


While the selection process is strongly influenced by high academic achievement, emphasis is also placed on integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others and potential for leadership.