Five students have been given grants from two of the most sought-after fellowships offered to Bowdoin students, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and the Fulbright Fellowship Program.
One such winner is David Bruce ’13 who has been granted $25,000 by the Watson Fellowship to travel outside of the U.S. for the next 12 months, will examine the risks that are associated with living in a seaside city threatened by climate change.
“I plan to investigate and better understand this issue through a series of sketches, paintings and other creative works that will offer depictions of the challenges man faces in major coastal metropolises,” Bruce wrote in his statement on the fellowship’s website. “My proposal takes me to seven cities in five different countries, both developed and developing. I hope to reveal the many ways these vulnerable cities and the people in them are learning to be resilient to great risks posed by climate change.”
Four other seniors—Kacey Berry, Daniel Ertis, RaiNesha Miller and Emma Cutler—have won Fulbright Fellowships and and will live abroad for the next year, either teaching English in local schools or conducting research topic of their choosing. In addition to teaching or research, students are required to undertake a community engagement project that aims to further incorporate the student into the culture of the country that he or she will be living in.
“Im going to be in Greece, spending half of my time teaching English and the other half as an independent study,” Ertis said. “My proposal was to take an in- depth look at Greco-Roman wrestling and to look into the archaeological, literary and art history archive and see if I can put it into practice with my students.
Miller, who will be teaching English in Indonesia, is taking an entirely different approach to her Community Engagement Project.
“My project involves women and children and establishing connections through food,” Miller said. “I’m from Alabama, so we love good down home southern cooking and food with rich flavor. So I wanted to incorporate my southern style with the styles of Indonesia and jumpstart a community project.”
Although the students are responsible for the majority of their applications, Bowdoin’s Director of Fellowships and Research Cindy Stocks works with students in order to prepare them for the application process.
“One of our missions is to help current Bowdoin students and recent alumni figure out which national fellowship might be a good fit for them and help them through the process,” Stocks said. “We help with everything from writing their essays to who the right people are to ask for letters of recommendation to helping with mock interviews. Basically everything they need to be as competitive as possible.”
Stocks also stresses the success that Bowdoin has had in these national fellowship pool, with Bowdoin being consistently named a top Fulbright producing institution. In 2005 and 2006, Bowdoin produced nine Fulbright scholars and was named a top Fulbright-producing school by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Institute of International Education. In 2009, six students received Fulbrights and Bowdoin again made the Chronicle’s list. Last year, Bowdoin did not make the list for the first time in three years.
“Nationwide, 36 percent of students who applied [to the Fulbright] became finalists,” Stocks said. “Among Bowdoin’s pool, 58 percent did. What I would say is that it shines a very favorable light on Bowdoin students.”
While the application process can be discouraging for many hopeful students, Berry and Ertis encourage prospective applicants to change the way that they think about applying.
“Rather than being intimidated and saying ‘these are such competitive things and I don’t have a shot,’” Berry said. “You can think about it as a fun thing to imagine how you would design a project and to see what excites you. It is definitely daunting to think that you might work really hard on it and barely have a shot, but you should be hopeful. It helped to reorient my thinking that way.”
“I really look forward to encouraging other students to apply for these fellowships,” Ertis said. “I grew a lot as a person from this process. I’m thrilled that it worked out, but even if it hadn’t, I still learned a lot from sitting down and trying to put all of my experiences and thoughts down in a convincing way. I really recommend it.”