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22 Notre Dame students awarded fellowships

| Friday, May 19, 2017

Members of the class of 2017 received an array of prestigious fellowships and awards this year, including two Rhodes Scholarships and 15 Fulbright grants.

Jeffrey Thibert, interim director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), said the Rhodes Scholarship process is intensely selective.

“For Rhodes, this year there were 882 candidates, and they chose 32,” Thibert said. “We had two of them.”

Thibert said the Rhodes Scholarship supports two years of study at the University of Oxford for a graduate degree or another undergraduate degree. Here, he said, senior Rhodes Scholarship recipients Alexis Doyle and Grace Watkins will study alongside the other 30 U.S. Rhodes Scholars, as well as many others from around the world.

“As with most fellowships, a key part of the experience is connecting with a cohort of future leaders from around the world at Oxford who are also Rhodes Scholars,” Thibert said.

Doyle, a biology and peace studies double major, said she initially planned to take a gap year and do social work before medical school, but was pushed by professors to apply for the scholarship.

“A couple professors explained to me that it would be a good opportunity to get a platform on which I could advocate at a larger scale for the things I care about,” she said.

After working at the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. after her junior year, Doyle said she realized she had a passion for public health policy.

“The health of the most vulnerable will be determined by policies,” she said. “I would really love to study policy in greater depth, and the Rhodes will give me an opportunity to do that before going to medical school.”

Being a Rhodes Scholar will also provide Doyle with an opportunity to learn from the other students in the program at Oxford, she said.

“I think a huge part of my education here has been being able to interact with peers who have all of these ideas outside of my field of study that are so fascinating and have influenced my thought on a bunch of things,” Doyle said. “I’ll get to meet a lot of people at Oxford that will have a positive influence on me and the way that I think.”

In addition to Doyle and Watkins’s Rhodes Scholarships, 15 members of the class of 2017 received grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Thibert said.

“The Fulbright Program is our biggest fellowship in terms of students applying,” he said. “What the Fulbright U.S. Student Program does is provide opportunities for students to spend a year after graduation doing study, research or English teaching.”

Ten of the Fulbright Scholars were offered English Teaching Assistantship grants from the Fulbright program in several countries around the world. Haley Adams and David Arney will complete their assistantships in Poland, Dana Drysdale will complete hers in South Korea, John Gadient will complete his in Germany, Madeline Hahn and Joseph Rebagliati will complete theirs in Spain, Maya Jain will complete hers in Peru, Peter Stankiewicz will complete his in Russia and Connor Bliss and Dolores Vargas declined their assistantship offers.

Gadient, who will graduate with a degree in international economics with German, said the uniqueness of the opportunity is part of what drew him to it.

“It’s an experience I wouldn’t be able to get with any other job or graduate school,” Gadient said. “This is something that I can’t do anywhere else.”

Gadient has studied abroad in Germany twice — in Freiburg after his freshman year and in Heidelberg during his junior year — and said his desire to return to the country contributed to his decision to apply for the grant.

“I wanted to go back to Germany,” Gadient said. “While I was there I actually got to become a part of the community I was living in, and [the assistantship is a] way to go back and give back to the people.”

The other five Fulbright Scholars from the Class of 2017 were awarded research grants. Sara Abdel-Rahim will complete her research in Greece, Luke Donahue and Matthew O’Neill will both complete theirs in Germany, Kiley Adams will complete hers in India and Daniel Barabasi declined his research grant offer.

Four more seniors — Bradley Bowles, Julia Butterfield, Paulina Eberts and Sreeraahul Kancherla — received Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to its website, the program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.”

Additionally, senior political science major Jenny Ng received full funding for a one-year Master’s of China Studies program at Yenching Academy — a distinguished college within Peking University — and senior applied and computational mathematics and statistics major John Huber received a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

CUSE plays a crucial role in setting students up for success in these fellowship application processes, Thibert said.

“The idea behind CUSE was that the kind of scholarly engagement that we try to enable students to do — like undergraduate research, service learning and internships — we try to connect students to the different resources on campus and beyond campus for doing those things,” he said.

By giving students access to these resources, Thibert said, CUSE hopes to propel them to research and experiences that can make them valuable candidates for fellowships.

“The students who do those things and excel in those areas might be the very same students who would be strong candidates for fellowships,” he said. “We build a strong relationship with students by working with them on scholarly engagement, and so then they already know and have this relationship with us when they become interested in fellowships.

“In these past few years, we’ve seen consistent growth first in the number of students who are engaging with CUSE in different ways. That includes workshops we give about undergraduate research, one-on-one advising we do to give students feedback on proposals for research grants and fellowships. We’ve also seen growth overall in the number of students applying for fellowships and in the number receiving fellowships.”

Thibert said CUSE hopes to expose students to opportunities that can change the course of their lives for the better.

“I think generally one of the benefits of these fellowships is they tend to allow you to make connections that will open doors that you didn’t even know were there,” he said. “I think a lot of people go into an internship with one life plan, and they come out the other end with a slightly revised life plan because of the opportunities they were offered through that fellowship.”

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