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Seniors receive competitive scholarships, fellowships to open doors to post-graduate opportunities

| Friday, May 13, 2022

More than 30 graduating seniors have won competitive fellowships and scholarships to participate in post-graduate programs in a variety of fields this year. Among the awardees, 19 received a Fulbright award, six received a National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship and two received a Yenching fellowship.

Notre Dame was named one of the top producers of Fulbright Program students for the eighth consecutive year, according to a press release. With 26 total Fulbright recipients, Notre Dame finished second overall among U.S. institutions. The Fulbright Program is an educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Fulbright students can study, conduct research or teach English abroad.

Alena Coleman is one of the graduating seniors who received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in 2021-2022. Coleman, a Spanish major who lives in Lewis Hall and is originally from Evansville, Indiana, plans to travel to Uruguay in 2023 to teach English. 

Coleman’s program will last nine months. She will start teaching English in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, before she is placed in one of the more rural provinces in the country. Coleman decided to go to Uruguay after learning about the literature produced in the region and the culture. She said she was also drawn to the strong education system.

“I thought it’d be really great to learn from those teachers and kind of see how their system works because they also teach foreign education or like foreign language from really early [on],” Coleman said. 

In Uruguay’s education system, students are expected to display competence in three languages by the time they graduate high school, she said.

 “It’s a new goal they have, so I wanted to be part of that and I thought that would be just interesting to learn how they teach language there,” Coleman said.

Coleman received a Gilman Scholarship last year to participate in an internship in Chile helping Chilean students apply to American universities. Due to the pandemic, Coleman’s internship was virtual.

Jeffrey Thibert, the director of the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), said the fellowships and grants students can apply for with the help of CUSE allow them to apply their education to the real world.

“I think the kinds of opportunities that we support are the kinds of opportunities that give students a real chance to start enacting their mission in life outside of the classroom,” Thibert said.

Thibert said students should view the funding opportunities as a means to an end to discover and begin working toward their goals in life.

“So for us, these fellowships, I think are always a means to an end, you should never apply just to get the award or just to get the recognition, you should apply because they’re going to help you get to a place that allows you to achieve what you want to achieve in the world,” Thibert said.

Senior Robbie Frei, a mechanical engineering major who lives in Keenan Hall, will use his NSF graduate research fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Frei is minoring in design and hopes to discern a career path that allows him to balance the more artistic and human-centered side of design with the math-intensive side of robotics.

Frei serves as president of Enable ND, a club that creates 3D-printed prostheses. He said he hopes to work on a research project that involves improving surgical interfaces for people.

“Because there you have a very technical robotics challenge that’s also mirrored with a level of human understanding, and I’m looking forward to some of that work,” he said.

Eventually, he wants to work in research and development for a company.

“Just from my design classes and Enable, I find I get a lot of fulfillment out of seeing what I work on out in the real world,” Frei said. “And that connection is less tangible for academic research, especially in robotics.”

Five seniors finished as finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship. None of them won the award; however, one alumnus received the Rhodes Scholarship this year.

In addition to enabling students to get out into the real world, Thibert said these fellowships and scholarships reflect well on the University.

“Having students from Notre Dame get this kind of recognition says a lot about the University,” he said. “It does a lot to, I think, enhance the University’s reputation even above where it already is.”

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About Ryan Peters

Ryan is a junior in Knott Hall from Lake Forest, Illinois. He is majoring in business analytics and minoring in constitutional studies. He currently serves as Managing Editor for The Observer. Follow him on Twitter @peterrsryan.

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