FORT KNOX, Ky. -- High academic achievement. Leadership potential. A spirit of unselfishness.

These are all traits that the Army seeks in its ROTC cadets. They are also the traits sought by the Rhodes Trust when reviewing applicants for its Rhodes Scholarship.

According to Joseph Riley, 22, an Army ROTC cadet at the University of Virginia, he didn't think he would have a chance when he submitted his scholarship application.

"There was a dinner the night before the announcement (Nov. 17), and I had told my parents that I didn't see how I could win, given how talented all the other finalists were," he said. "After I finally realized what had happened, I was just extremely grateful and humbled."

Riley is one of 32 American students who will start their studies at Oxford in October 2013. They were selected from a pool of 838 candidates nominated by their colleges and universities. The last time an Army ROTC cadet was selected was 2009.

The scholarships fully fund two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but also for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead, according to the Rhodes Scholarship website.

Riley, who is majoring in Mandarin Chinese and is in the honors program in government and foreign affairs, ranks 10th on ROTC's National Order of Merit List, out of 5,579 senior cadets. He is co-authoring a book on Sino-American relations and has done field research on Chinese mineral extraction industries in Africa. He has attended the Army's Airborne and Air Assault schools, and founded an organization to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

In addition, he has completed an internship with the National Ground Intelligence Center. At UVa., he was elected to the university's Student Government and Honor Committee. Also, he founded the Alexander Hamilton Society, a national organization focused on fostering foreign policy debate and discussions on college campuses. He plans to complete a master's and doctorate in international relations at Oxford and later serve as an Army infantry officer.

Riley credits Army ROTC for preparing him to tackle Oxford's rigorous academics. According to Riley, ROTC helps instill the confidence and skills needed to set high goals and work toward accomplishing those goals. "It also gives cadets a host of leadership development opportunities that help develop them as leaders and lifelong learners."

"Cadet Joe Riley is an extremely gifted and talented young man who is passionate about what he does," said Lt. Col. Mike Binetti, the professor of military science for University of Virginia.

"He truly embodies all of the attributes that the Army seeks in its leaders, including character, presence, intellect, the ability to develop others and getting results. He has a 4.0 grade point average in an extremely rigorous double major honors program. His willingness to embrace a critical language and develop himself into a fluent and globally aware officer is exactly the type of initiative and self-awareness we need in our future officers."

Binetti said Oxford will prepare Riley to think and, if required, operate as a junior officer at the operational and strategic level.

"He will not only feel comfortable but be academically qualified to be an infantry platoon leader or a work in a general officers strategic initiative group," Binetti said.

Riley will be on an educational delay while at Oxford and will commission in 2016. "Having the time to think critically about these big questions without the competing demands often placed on cadets and active duty officers will be incredibly formative," Riley said. "It will also allow me the opportunity to examine more closely what my role will and should be within the Army."

"Cadet Riley is both humble and compassionate in the way he looks out for his fellow students and cadets," Binetti said. "He has helped unite the cadets and midshipmen in three services' ROTC programs at UVa. He will always advocate for the best interest of the cadets and soldiers under his command. He is very grounded and extremely humble about all of his success and is always willing to assist others in their pursuit of academic or military goals."

Once Riley completes Oxford and commissions, his goal is to serve as a platoon leader and company commander. He would also like to teach at West Point in the Social Sciences Department.

"Ultimately, I hope to spend as much of my career as possible leading troops," Riley said, "but at times I would like to work in capacities that allow me to help the Army develop its grand strategy."