Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2007

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Through the Grape Vine: Scott Hafner ´80, Managing Partner Hafner Vineyard

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Opening the door to Fellowships

Opening the door to Fellowships

The College is bolstering its support for students seeking high-profile national fellowships and scholarships. As alumni can attest, the outcomes are life-changing.

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Scholarships & Fellowships

by Theresa Sullivan Barger


With his Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Dan Murphy ´02 visited six countries — Nepal, Ethiopia, China, New Zealand, Peru and Iceland — to research walking trails and environmental management.

He was in Nepal during a Maoist uprising. In Ethiopia, he drank coffee made from beans freshly picked from his hosts´ yard. In western China, he met semi-nomadic herders who gave him a meal in their tent.

“I knew that I was interested in international political issues, environmental issues and their connection to people´s lives,” says the Chinese and English double major. “My Watson year gave me a chance to explore.”

Post-graduate fellowships provide life-changing opportunities for Connecticut College students and alumni. They also burnish the reputation of the College by showcasing students´ intellect and creativity. But despite a strong record of Fulbright Scholars and Watson winners, Connecticut College students are less well-represented on the lists of some other prestigious fellowships.

That´s an irresistible challenge for Armando Bengochea, dean of the college community. Based on the high caliber of students, “Connecticut College should be projecting many more students into the national arena,” he says.

With support from President Lee Higdon, Bengochea has expanded staff and faculty resources to develop a pipeline of strong applicants. Deborah Dreher ´89, director of the Career Enhancing Life Skills (CELS) office, has been named associate dean for scholarships and fellowships. Philip Ray, associate dean of studies for juniors and seniors, has chaired the on-campus screening committee for Fulbright Scholars. Now he has added oversight responsibilities for the Rhodes, British Marshall, Jack Kent Cooke and Harry S. Truman scholarships.

Marc Zimmer, the Barbara Zaccheo Kohn ´72 Professor of Chemistry, has been named faculty coordinator of scholarships and fellowships. He is working with faculty to identify promising students as early as their freshman and sophomore years. He is also educating faculty about the kind of detailed, highly personalized recommendation letters applicants need to be successful.

Their work is already having an impact. “More students are exploring the options this year, and some of them are younger students who won´t be eligible to apply until next year or the year after,” says Dreher. “Most years, I see 15 to 20 students. This year I talked with 85.”

The best candidates have strong academic performance, creative ideas, passion, leadership ability and citizenship skills, Dreher says. In addition to faculty, she is encouraging staff and coaches to flag possible candidates. “Students are being identified in many ways now,” she says. “Three of this year´s nominees were referred to me by their CELS counselors.”

Applying for a fellowship isn´t for the faint of heart. “It was torture,” Dreher says about her own experience applying for a Fulbright. Her professors sent her back to revise and rewrite her proposal over and over again, saying, “you can do this.”

Dreher believes even students who don´t win a scholarship gain something. “The process of preparing for a fellowship is so valuable,” she says. “It forces students to really synthesize what they´ve learned.”

The process starts with a good idea. Students can bounce ideas off their professors and read proposals by previous winners. Staff and faculty help applicants to refine their ideas, conduct practice interviews and give feedback on their written essays. For most awards, applications are first screened by a College committee, which then recommends the strongest proposals to the sponsoring organizations.

Watson winner Eden Savino ´98, a government major who minored in Latin, took a year to follow the path of Virgil´s Aeneid through Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and Italy. “The most grueling part of the application was the interviews. There were a couple of rounds of them,” she says.

Dean Ray encourages students studying abroad to keep their ears and eyes open for a fellowship project. Study abroad programs have proven to be “an excellent training ground,” he says.

For Savino, the Watson fellowship served as a passport of sorts, empowering her to pursue new experiences. After earning a master´s in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University, she worked in Berlin, as a German Chancellor Scholar. Although she didn´t speak German, she was part of a group active in formulating a public policy for prostitution in Europe. (Prostitution is legal in Germany.) Savino is now a senior analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, working on health-related public policy issues.

Daniel Kline ´99, a Fulbright Scholar and Latin American studies major, spent a year studying rural indigenous tribes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He discovered that rather than being a professor of Latin American studies as originally planned, he would rather have a more hands-on professional life. He decided that the fastest catalyst for change was in the business world.

“That was an ´aha´ moment for me,” says Kline, who is director of business development in Legal Research Network´s London office. The international organization works to drive governance, ethics and compliance management.

Fellowships and scholarships continue to open doors long after the year of study has been completed, Kline says.

“While I went through the Fulbright, I developed new relationships and partnerships with institutions that I continue today.”


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