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Students strive for prestige in graduate fellowships

For students looking ahead to grad school, it is important to know what Fellowships are available, their application processes and how they are helpful in the long run.

There are currently 15 prestigious fellowships promoted by John Brown University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Fellowships.

Brad Gambill, associate professor of English, currently teaches a class for students who are interested in applying for these fellowships.

“These are off-campus fellowships offered by foundations and the US Government to provide funding to high-achieving students who are wanting to pursue a particular role after college or go on to graduate school,” Gambill said.

Some of the most well-known fellowships that JBU helps students apply for are the Rhodes Scholarship, which provides funding to attend graduate school at Oxford for two or three years, the Goldwater Scholarship, which provides funding for undergraduates working in math, engineering or science, the Truman Scholarship, which is for students interested in grad school for public policy, and the Fulbright Scholarships, which are for graduates wanting to teach English or complete a research project overseas.

Gambill explained that, depending on the mission of the fellowship, who receives them or even who applies varies. Some fellowships are for current undergraduate students in a specific program, while others are for students who have already graduated. Additionally, some awards require applicants to have a certain GPA or demonstrate leadership ability.

The students who are involved in the class are in the process of applying for a fellowship this year.

“The goal is to help students to think about how God is using them and their gifts and how they might be more intentional about this process of living out their lives,” Gambill said. “These fellowships can play an important part of their story.”

Junior Kaitlin Grant is enrolled in the class and is applying for the Truman Scholarship. She sees the class as a wonderful opportunity to help her through the application process.

“I am hoping to go get a Master of Science in African and International Development,” Grant said. “I want to work with or start my own Non-Government Organization (NGO) in East Africa.”

The application asked questions from why she wants to go into public service, to what leadership roles she’s been involved in, to what prompts her to apply for the scholarship.

For Grant, the application process has been long, but Gambill’s class has been a helpful part of the experience.

“Class is helpful in getting us to think of things to put on the application and helping us learn how to present ourselves to a panel we’ve never met before,” Grant said. “We did some personal development where we came up with the top 15 most important or revealing moments in our lives from before JBU, 15 during our time at JBU and then 15 that we anticipate after JBU.”

Jessica Wilson, assistant professor of creative writing, received the Fulbright Fellowship to Charles University in Prague.

While presenting at a conference in Moscow, Russia, Wilson was approached with the opportunity to apply for the scholarship.

“I began contacting the University and working with them to plan specific course descriptions that worked with my field of expertise and their teaching needs,” Wilson said.

After a three month long application process and six more months waiting for the decision by the Fulbright Commission, Wilson was pleased with the result.

“I was elated by the acceptance because the award is quite selective and a great honor to receive,” Wilson said. “This award does not only benefit my own work but also gives the John Brown University name even more international recognition.”

Wilson will travel to Prague from January until June and will teach a series of lectures on U.S. Southern Culture for the graduate program in American Studies at the University.

“I hope the experience broadens my understanding of Southern literature through my interdisciplinary research preparation and through discussion with Czech students,” Wilson said. “I also hope to return from Prague with publishable material either from my lectures or my experience.”

Gambill noted that the fellowships are extremely competitive, and data shows that only five out of 100 applicants win these awards.

“However, what we have found is that going through the process of applying can teach the students a great deal about who they are and the calling God has given to them,” Gambill said. “Thus, it is a very important and powerful experience regardless if you win or not.”

If you are interested in hearing more about prestigious fellowships, Gambill will host a campus-wide informational meeting tonight at 4 p.m. in the Honors Center classroom.