This year, 24 Bowdoin students have received a national fellowship or grant to pursue a range of opportunities, including teaching English in Germany or Nepal and funding for graduate school towards a career in conflict-resolution work around the world.
Cindy Stocks, director of student fellowships and research, emphasized that the process of finding and applying for these fellowships is a community effort at Bowdoin. Students are able to interact closely with their professors, and she often gets emails from faculty suggesting that she talk to certain students. Professors also are often very involved in helping students craft their applications.
“There was a community of people who have supported me through this process, and those people exist here at Bowdoin,” Mohamed Nur ’19 said. “So if you have an interest, you should pursue it, and you will be well supported here.”
Nur won a Truman Scholarship, an award given to college juniors who are interested in pursuing careers in public service. In 2018, only 59 college juniors from 52 institutions across the country were selected as winners from a competitive pool of hundreds of applicants.
The application required students to submit a plan of what the next ten years of their lives would look like. Nur’s plan included pursuing a joint degree program for a Master’s and a Juris Doctorate that would allow him to gain both negotiation skills and legal knowledge that he hopes to apply to conflict-resolution work in the Horn of Africa.
“I wanted to analyze … how dialogue can be used to help communities who have been in war, who have been in conflict, reconcile the violence that they have had to endure as a mechanism to create a better future for themselves,” Nur said.
Nur connects his interest in conflict resolution with his experiences building community on Bowdoin’s campus through his roles in Bowdoin Student Government, ResLife and the Student Center for Multicultural Life. Stocks attributes the high rate of success in attaining fellowships to an investment in the common good among Bowdoin students. Students who take advantage of opportunities to work with youth through the McKeen Center and community mentoring programs ar well-prepared for service-oriented fellowships.
“A lot of my work through the McKeen Center has helped me think more critically about what it means to go into a community you’re not a part of,” said Kate Berkley ’18, a recipient of an Austrian Government English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant. “I tried to bring a lot of that thinking into my application process.”
Berkley plans to pursue a career in education and looked to English teaching fellowships partially as a way to gain valuable experience that will be useful in her professional life. Alongside Berkley, 15 other students have been awarded Fulbright ETA grants.
“In order to work in education in any capacity, you have to teach first,” said Berkley. “I saw teaching abroad as a really cool opportunity to learn more about what education systems are like in other countries.”
Berkley, who chose not to study away during her time at Bowdoin, is also excited about the opportunity to live abroad for a year. Her fellowship is part of Fulbright Austria, meaning she will receive a grant through the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education.
Berkley will be teaching both at a high school in a town called Bregenz and at a vocational school in a farming community called Bezau. These teaching jobs will be part-time, and Berkley will spend the remainder of her time engaging in community projects.
For Julia Conley ’18, a Fulbright ETA grant recipient, studying abroad played a large role in her decision to apply. Having spent the fall of her junior year in Nepal, Conley is excited to have been awarded a grant that she can use as an opportunity to continue her engagement there.
“I thought it was a tremendous opportunity to return to this place I had developed such an incredible sense of place in that I would otherwise not be able to travel back to,” Conley said.
Conley will also be participating in community engagement projects in addition to her work teaching English at a government-funded school just outside of Kathmandu. She hopes to be able to do a project in female leadership with young women in the community.
Carina Spiro ’18 also received an ETA Fulbright to Malaysia. As a math and physics major, she has run a math club at an elementary school and been a tutor at the Center for Learning and Teaching. She hopes to do community work related to math education there. She is also involved with the Outing Club, which she says she has allowed her to become better at learning and collaborating in uncomfortable situations.
Stocks encourages interested students to embrace the idea that applying for fellowships can be an intrinsically valuable educational experience.
“I can’t guarantee that they’ll get a national fellowship, but I can absolutely guarantee that they will walk away being able to tell a story about who they are, how they got to where they are, where they want to go, and what they can provide to an entity in a way that is concise and compelling,” said Stocks.
Stocks emphasized the importance of students learning about these fellowships early on, in their first and second years, so that they can have these in mind when making choices about what to do at Bowdoin.
“By getting it on student’s radar screens early, we hope that when they are faced with choices, the possibility that they might apply for one of these opportunities can inform their choices,” she said.
In addition to Berkeley, Conley and Spiro, the following students were awarded Fulbright ETA grants: Peter Bensen ’18, Chris Brown ’18, Daniel Castro Bonilla ’17, Lillian Eckstein ’18, Kim Gilmore ’16, Ben Ginzberg ’18, Jake Griffin ’18, Sabina Hartnett ’18, John Layman ’18, Ellice Lueders ’18, Kiki Nakamura-Koyama ’17 and Dia Su ’18. Genevieve de Kervor ’18 and Ben Torda ’18 received a Fulbright research fellowship. Three students received Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation: Megan Massa ’14, Jacob Spertus ’14 and Liam Taylor ’17. Sydney To ’19 received a Beinecke Scholarship, Joe Hilleary ’20 received a Boren Scholarship and Nevan Swanson ’18 was awarded a Watson Fellowship.
Students and Stocks are still waiting to hear back on the results of several more fellowships.
Editor’s Note, April 21, 2018: Regretfully, an earlier version of this story neglected to include Genevieve de Kerver and Ben Torda in the list of students awarded grants. Her name has been added.