More Applicants and More Success in Distinguished Fellowships

Adapted from the 2007-08 Committee on Foreign Scholarships President’s Report written by Professor Linn Hobbs

The collaboration between the Committee on Foreign Scholarships, chaired by Professor Linn Hobbs, and the Distinguished Fellowships program, headed by Kim Benard, was very fruitful during the past year. MIT students were awarded a total of 23 major awards, including 5% of the world’s supply of Gates Scholars this year! Even more impressive is the fact that thirty-seven MIT students reached the final rounds of these competitions.

This year MIT students garnered 1 Rhodes Scholarship, 1 Marshall Scholarship, 5 Gates Cambridge Scholarships, 6 Fulbright Awards, 1 Chateaubriand Fellowship, 2 Kawamura Scholarships, 1 Merage Foundation for the American Dream Fellowship, 1 Udall Scholarship, 1 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Fellowship, 1 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Fellowship1, and 3 Goldwater Scholarships1.

These successes clearly underscore our ability to effectively mentor our applicant pool. Kim Benard, the Program Advisor for Distinguished Fellowships, which is part of the new Global Education Office, advises students as they consider pursuing one or more scholarships. She helps them understand the unique benefits of the scholarships, reviews their eligibility to apply, and provides direction, feedback, and support throughout the applications process.

What continues to characterize our efforts in the competitions is that too few of MIT’s very talented students are applying for these prestigious and rewarding opportunities.  Nevertheless, strides have been made in increasing student awareness and interest in these distinguished awards. During IAP, information sessions on UK Fellowships and Fulbright Scholarships resulted in a total of 94 applications for all competitions, a 45% increase over last year’s 65 applications! The success of our outreach program has been based on the use of multiple modes of communication to reach potential students and departments. Kim Benard actively recruited potential students through information sessions, recruitment email messages to over 500 students in the sophomore and junior classes who had recorded GPAs of 4.7 and above, and individual appointments.

Faculty members comprise the best potential source of increased applicant recruitment. Kim Benard wrote an article for the UROP newsletter that explored how UROP advisors have played, and can continue to play, a key role in encouraging students to apply for distinguished fellowships.  The GEOMIT Committee produced a comprehensive report, which notes that the marked success of MIT students in the distinguished foreign scholarship competitions has proven these programs to be an effective vehicle for providing unparalleled opportunities for study abroad. Professor Hobbs and Kim Benard intend to co-author a Faculty Newsletter article early in the fall to provide more visibility for these programs among faculty members.

1Carnegie Fellowship is facilitated by CIS and the Goldwater Scholarship by the Schools of Engineering and Science