Graduate to study as Gates scholar
Kyle Witzigman | Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Adam Cowden, a 2012 Notre Dame graduate, has received one of 40 Gates Cambridge Scholarships to study at the University of Cambridge starting Oct. 1.
“An opportunity to study at Cambridge wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship,” Cowden said. “There’s a really cool opportunity [at Cambridge] to build community and collaborate to solve the world’s issues.”
Cowden, a political science major and philosophy, politics and economics minor, described the intensive, thorough selection process that narrows a field of 800 to a final group of 40.
According to Cowden, the departments at Cambridge create a shortlist of applicants of about 200. The Gates committee then review and select about 100 for interviews in Seattle. Cowden said that the Gates committee only selected 90 this year.
At the interviews, Cowden said the experience was friendly.
“They go out of their way to encourage you to enjoy Seattle and engage with the other finalists,” he said.
“You have a panel interviewing you. Mine was social sciences. [The panel] includes some professors from Cambridge, past Gates Cambridge Scholars and others,” Cowden said. “They asked what I thought about policy and if I drafted a policy, what would it be and why.”
Cowden said his initial reaction was a mix of surprise and relief.
“I didn’t think that my interview went well,” he said. “I was really surprised and happy. I studied in London while at Notre Dame, and I’m excited to go back.”
At University of Cambridge, Cowden will pursue a master of philosophy in planning, growth and regeneration. He said he wants to apply his studies in the future.
“In the short term, I could be interested in going on to a Ph.D. Right now, I’m living at Su Casa Catholic Workers,” he said. “I think I would like to work in public policy that regenerates economically desperate neighborhoods. Or else, I could end up finding something else and being completely surprised.”
Cowden thanked specific members of the Notre Dame community for helping him along his journey to Cambridge.
“I would say that certain people as opposed to classes or a major helped me the most,” Cowden said. “I took a Latin American politics class with Fr. Tim Scully. I had to write a paper in that class that became the inspiration of my senior thesis.
“Dr. Jeff Thibert at CUSE really helped me through the actual scholarship process.”
Beyond the application process and classes, Cowden said the community aspect of dorm life at Notre Dame helped him along the way.
“We had a housekeeper in Sorin, Senja Begic. She was basically my second mom,” he said. “There was one time that I fell on God Quad and she tended to my wounds for two weeks. She helped us get through college.”
Cowden said he would encourage other students to apply for scholarships following college.
“Number one, make sure that you have a good reason for applying to the program,” he said. “Second of all, if you do have those reasons in place, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t think there’s no chance at getting it. I thought I had a very small chance, and it worked out for me.”