Students awarded national, college fellowships for graduate work

Several graduating seniors have recently been awarded national and college fellowships to fund post-graduate education and research.

Among the winners of national fellowships are Elizabeth Oltmans ’99, the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship; Felippe Perez ’99 and Sylvia Englund ’99, Watson Fellowships; and Christine Kim ’99 and Jennifer Smalligan ’99, Fulbright Fellowships. Recipients of college fellowships included Mary-Jane Rubenstein ’99, Brian Gerke ’99 and Saumitra Jha ’99, Hershel Smith Fellowships; Jonathan Kravis ’99, the Donnaven-Moody Fellowship; Llerena Searle ’99, the Clark Fellowship; and Christine Leahy ’99 and Nicholas Zammuto ’99, Hutchinson Fellowships.

According to Assistant Dean Peter Grudin, who is in charge of the fellowships, college fellowships were awarded in a “very complicated way.” Previously, the Hershel-Smith, Donnaven-Moody, and Clark Fellowship nominations were screened by three committees. First, nominations were screened by a faculty committee, which selected candidates for further study. The selected students were then interviewed by the faculty committee and, with the exception of the Clark Fellowship, a committee consisting of alumni who are prior recipients of these fellowships. After performing the interviews the two committees would meet with a secretary, Grudin, and discuss their decisions. This information was then sent to a third committee, consisting of department heads, the President and the Dean of the College for a final decision. The third committee has recently been eliminated from the process.

Beginning the next academic year, changes will be made in the way Hutchinson Fellowship recipients are selected. Previously, winners were selected by a committee consisting of representatives from the relevant departments, Dean of the College Peter Murphy and Grudin. Beginning next year the committee will be made up of representatives or chairs from the departments and an at-large chair, but the Dean’s office will no longer be involved in the committee. Students apply directly to the department for this fellowship.

National Fellowship applications are also screened by the College. For most of these fellowships, the college is allotted a certain number of nominations. Students apply to the college and a faculty committee will screen the applications. There is no limit on the number of applicants for Rhodes and Marshall Fellowships, and although Grudin has a policy of never refusing a student the right to send an application, he will discourage students if he thinks they do not have a chance of winning.

Grudin emphasized that the college makes all efforts to make fair and equitable decisions concerning the awarding of the fellowships. “Being fair in these competitions is usually in direct proportion to how much time you spend.”

Grudin described national fellowships as “extremely competitive and chancy,” but he does not believe this to be true of the college fellowships.

“I don’t think that’s true of our own internal fellowships,” he said, “because we spend a lot of time making them fair.” Grudin did admit that there is a limit as to how much time faculty can spend in making these decisions.

In relation to the number of recipients at other colleges, Grudin said, “There are years when our results are outstanding compared to the usual suspects.”

Grudin said that the strongest area for Williams students is in the sciences, “The way in which we’re demonstrating superiority nationwide is in our science students.” Williams students have made outstanding showings in National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, including a year several years ago when Williams placed second after MIT in the number of NSF grants which students received.

Englund, who received a Watson Fellowship, will be studying tropical biology and conservation at Instituto Nacional de la Biodiversidad, a biodiversity research station, in Costa Rica. Her research will try to “promote habitat conservation for economic development purposes.”

Englund said she chose the Watson fellowship because it allowed her to travel for the year and to work on a project which she had designed herself. Unlike the Fulbright Fellowship, the Watson fellowship does not require that she do her work in association with a university.

Perez, who also received a Watson Fellowship, will be studying the public education systems in Taiwan, South Africa, and Mexico. Perez described the fellowship as “they basically hand you a wad of money and say ‘go travel the world and study what you love.’” This was the only fellowship Perez applied for because he “would never have another opportunity like this.”

Kim will be studying marine chemistry at the Institute for Marine Research at the University of Kiel, Germany. Kim said she chose this fellowship because it would give her the opportunity to study abroad, something which she regrets not having done while at Williams and it would allow her to apply her chemistry to environmental issues and decide whether or not that is something she would like to pursue in graduate school.

In an effort to get money to pay for graduate school, Oltmans applied for the Javits fellowship. She said that she chose this fellowship because it would allow her to do Ph.D. work in any aspect of the social sciences field, which is less restrictive than other fellowships can be. Oltmans will be attending the University of Michigan school of Public Policy for her masters degree and then go on to get a Ph.D. in economics.

Searle, who was a recipient of a Clark Fellowship, applied for the fellowship in order to get money for graduate school. Searle will be attending Clark University in Worcester, MA to study urban geography. She will be working with Susan Hanson, an economic and feminist geographer in order to obtain her Ph.D.

Leahy described the Hutchinson Fellowship as “almost too good to be true.” The fellowship will allow her to “indulge her artistic talents” in a fashion that she chooses.

Although she will be working full-time for at least the next year, Leahy plans to spend some time working part time and writing. Leahy plans on attending graduate school in the future.

“I have always wondered what would happen if I had a significant amount of time that I could use to write,” she said, “but I never expected that it would be possible at this stage.”

Smalligan will be one of thirty people who are going to Korea to teach English with the Fulbright Fellowship.

After receiving two months of training, Smalligan will go to Korea for the year to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Smalligan said that one of the aspects of the program which attracted her was the opportunity to live with a family in small cities and towns outside of Seoul.

The Donnaven-Moody Fellowship will allow Kravis to study at Exeter College, Oxford University for two years. Kravis will be studying philosophy, economics and politics in preparation for law school. His second choice after the Rhodes Fellowship, Kravis said he had been looking for an opportunity to study at Oxford, where all classes are taught as a tutorial, because he thought it would be good preparation for attending Yale Law School.

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