Six seniors win fellowships for post-grad study in U.K.

Five students have been awarded Herchel Smith Fellowships for study at Cambridge and one student has been awarded the Donovan-Moody Fellowship for study at Oxford.

The recipients of the Herchel Smith Fellowship for the Class of 2013 are Abdullah Awad ’13, Cheng Chai Chiang ’13, Alexander Greaves-Tunnell ’13, Rachel Hagler ’13 and Uttara Partap ’13. This year’s Donovan-Moody Fellow is Michael Essman ’13.

Dr. Herchel Smith, a chemist known for his contributions to advancing the technology behind oral and injectable contraceptives, established the Herchel Smith Fellowship to provide approximately five graduating seniors from the College with funding for a graduate program at Cambridge.

Awad, a literary studies major, will pursue a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in criticism and culture while at Cambridge. Chiang is an English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies major and will also pursue an MPhil in criticism and culture. Hagler will graduate with majors in political science and Arabic and is planning to pursue Medieval Arabic and Judeo-Arabic literature. Greaves-Tunnell, a mathematics and philosophy major, will pursue an MPhil in computational biology at Cambridge. Partap, a biology major, plans to work toward an MPhil in public health.

“My primary reason for applying to Cambridge to study pre-modern Arabic literature was for the access to professors and resources that are related to my specialty,” Hagler said. “The project I most wish to pursue, aside from improving my language skills and knowledge base, concerns literary and social criticism of Medieval Arabic-language authors. I hope to specifically focus on female poets and other marginal figures and the nature of the criticisms they received from other scholars.”

For Hagler, the decision to study at Cambridge for a graduate degree was rooted in both the cultural and academic atmosphere of the university. “I am enticed by the amount of centralized access to rare books and manuscripts, their emphasis on close text study and primary-source based research and their long history of an intellectual relationship with the Near/Middle East,” Hagler said. “Also, Cambridge itself is beautiful, has a fascinating history and will be a great place to live.”

Hagler first became interested in doing graduate work in Medieval Arabic her junior year while working with Cluett Professor of Religion William Darrow. “He oriented my studies toward a period very different from the modern history that most of my other classes examined,” Hagler said. “That ability to look farther back in time to better understand causal relationships between early Islamic culture and modern media gave me a new perspective on the importance of literature.”

Awad decided to continue his education at Cambridge because he was looking for a change in perspective. “Exposure to the complementary intellectual milieu of Cambridge will increase the breadth of my academic awareness, positively affecting my teaching and research,” Awad said. “And as I perform my academic work in relation to various civic engagements and the navigation of everyday life (if we are to assume such a division of labor), Cambridge will also offer a gateway for synergies and collaborations of a more global scale.”

The Donovan-Moody Fellowship is a combination of two fellowships: the Moody Fellowship, established in 1927, and the Donovan Fellowship, established in 1979. The wording of the fellowship requires that it be awarded to one student every other year according to standards similar to those that dictate the selection of Rhodes Scholars. On years when the Donovan-Moody Fellowship is not awarded, it is replaced by the Martin-Wilson Fellowship, which also funds a student’s graduate program at Oxford. Essman, the winner of the fellowship this year, is a biology major who plans to pursue a Master of Science in global health science.

“In general, the committees look for applicants of outstanding intellect, potential to succeed in their chosen field, moral character, leadership and commitment to serve others – in the manner of the Rhodes and other national fellowships,” Katerina King, director of fellowships for the College, said.

The applicant pool for the two fellowships is combined, and usually includes about 20 students. This year saw a slightly smaller group of applicants as 17 students applied. There are no specific GPA requirements and students come from all academic backgrounds. Two committees are formed to select the fellows: One is comprised of faculty members and the other is made up of alumni who have studied in the U.K. themselves.

“This year’s winners are a marvelous group of students, each highly accomplished in their field, each with excellent reasons to undertake study at Cambridge or Oxford,” King said. “The applicant pool as a whole was exceptionally strong. It is always painful to turn down candidates who are brilliant and intellectually ambitious. This year felt particularly hard.”