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by Olivia Wu

Interested students should consult the following Northwestern Web sites for more information:

Graduate Fellowship Committee

Weinberg College Undergraduate Scholarships and Fellowships

James Brennan (G00) was two miles away, at Dar es Salaam's National Archives, poring over a dusty manuscript, when he heard the bomb rip through the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania.

The Northwestern University graduate student in African history was so focused on his research project - race relations in that country between Indians and Africans from 1920 to 1975 - that he only connected the sound to his immediate surroundings. "We all thought something in the archives had collapsed. About three hours later I found out what had happened."

Jane Dean (WCAS96) learned salsa dancing when she wasn't polling tourists for her research at Costa Rica's airport at San Josť or touring the countryside in rattletrap buses. Her interviews and her contact with native Costa Ricans during her travels added immeasurable insights in her reports on the potential to save that country's rain forests through tourism.

Katharine Chubbuck (GJ94) traveled to Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Malaysia and Indonesia with fellow students from Oxford University in England and interned for Newsweek magazine. Three years later, she would receive an Oxford doctorate, go from there to teach English literature and continue with the magazine as a freelance journalist.

Chubbuck, Dean and Brennan - along with other Northwestern students - were recipients of prestigious student scholarships available to undergraduate and graduate students throughout the United States. Brennan and Dean won Fulbright grants and Chubbuck landed a rare Rhodes Scholarship.

"I wouldn't have been able to get my PhD without the Rhodes," says Chubbuck. But beyond her degree, the award represented the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. "It meant having the time and the money to travel," says the specialist in 19th-century British travel writing.

She also knows that snagging one of the few academic jobs in her field - as assistant professor of literature at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1998 - is due in no small part to the Rhodes Scholarship. Chubbuck teaches a class of 61 cadets who stand at attention when she walks into the room and persist in putting her in a "ma'am sandwich" - ma'am at the beginning and end of each sentence - but she also is encouraged by the institution to travel and continue her journalistic career.

Dean says flatly that her fellowship "helped me get my job." She works in San Francisco for a consulting firm that puts together master tourism plans for cities and towns. Within the firm, she is considered the expert on ecotourism.

Brennan expects to finish his dissertation in the spring of the year 2000. As is the case for many historians who study other cultures, on-site research was critical. "Had I not received the award, I would have stayed in Evanston and worked ... and applied for the awards next year," he says.

It's hardly surprising that Northwestern, like such premier universities as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Duke, has high-achieving fellowship winners every year. That success is due in no small part to dedicated faculty members such as Jeanne Ravid and Paul Breslin, who hold joint academic and administrative posts and have helped Northwestern students secure prestitious Harry S Truman Scholarships for those seeking careers in public service.

Yet, given its talent pool, Northwestern has lagged behind schools of the same caliber, and certain members of the administration have been watching the situation closely. "It was clear from looking at the number of winners from these competitions that we weren't getting a fair representation from this school," says Stephen D. Fisher, Northwestern's associate provost for undergraduate education. "Other schools were devoting significantly greater resources to it." The turning point came for Fisher when he read in the New York Times that a liberal arts college student in Upstate New York had landed a $30,000 Truman Scholarship after being recruited and groomed by an adviser almost from the time she was a freshman.

Recognizing Northwestern's need to provide a visible, comprehensive plan for providing students with information and assistance, the provost's office created an Office of Fellowships in spring 1998 with Sara Anson Vaux named as director. Vaux previously headed up fellowship efforts at the University of Chicago, where she posted solid results.

Northwestern students have similar potential, she feels, but they first need to become aware of the available array of fellowships and grants and then set about to prepare top-notch application materials - impeccably crafted and thoughtful statements of their intellectual interests.

"Northwestern has a population second to none," Vaux says. "The school attracts top-rate, socially conscious students who match the goals of many scholarship givers. What impresses me is the volunteerism, a concept of service to the community. Almost all these scholarships that we're concerned with - the Rhodes, the Marshall, the Luce [Scholars Program] - look for that."

Yet, despite their potential, Northwestern students often screen themselves out of fellowships before they begin, she observes. "They say, 'I'm not good enough.' " But from Vaux's point of view, "if you have a strong academic record and want to go to graduate school, or study and travel abroad, and you want money, you should explore some pathways that might fund your plans."

A desire to be an agent of social change was what won Parthapratim Chanda (WCAS99) a $30,000 Truman Scholarship last year. Chanda came up through the public school system in Queens, New York, and pointed himself toward government or the not-for-profit sector early on. "My parents raised me to have the calling to help other people," he says.

When Chanda arrived as a freshman, he immediately got involved in several extracurricular activities in the social realm, such as Habitat for Humanity, and he joined COMPASS (Cultivating of Minds in Primary and Secondary Schools), a Northwestern mentoring program for the Chicago Public Schools. After a promising start, COMPASS had atrophied to the point where he was one of only three students involved as mentors during his sophomore year. By the time he was a junior, Chanda, as president, and other volunteers had re-energized the organization. At this point, COMPASS has rebuilt its base of volunteers to more than 150.

"And COMPASS is only one of his many activities," Vaux says. "Parth is full of ideas, intensely committed to the public good, inspiring - a real hands-on person. The Truman folks recognize such sincere dedication."

Like Chanda, Leonardo Martinez (WCAS99) knew he wanted to be in public service from an early age. During his academic career at Northwestern, he has been instrumental in drawing students to think seriously about international policy issues, and he established a journal of international affairs that Vaux rates as "a solid piece of work."

Yet, despite - in fact, actually because of - his altruistic urges, Martinez took a decidedly practical approach in winning both Truman and Marshall scholarships. "It takes an understanding that there are a lot of opportunities out there and that you should know the main ones in your field," he says. "Grants are critical to a career in public service. The work isn't likely to be lucrative, so you look for the support to pay your way through your education."

Even with the establishment of a fellowship office, many awardees need a mentor or professor to suggest the larger possibilities in their fields.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (WCAS92) won a Marshall in 1992 that led to three years at Cambridge University to study the Reformation in Germany and its relationship to political thought. She was told during her sophomore year at Northwestern that she should seriously think about applying for a fellowship, and, when Pardoe went abroad as a junior, she became convinced she would flourish overseas at the graduate level. She then put herself in the hands of Roger Boye, associate dean and associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism.

"The shepherding process is absolutely critical," Pardoe says. "Once you receive one of these awards, you realize how much the very elite, especially the Ivies, are making sure a certain number of their students get them."

A self-described "faculty brat," Pardoe was always school-oriented, but admits she was not that aware of the fellowship scene. Having access to advisers who had been at Oxford and Cambridge proved invaluable in her application.

Michael Bailey (G98), now an adjunct assistant professor of history at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan., won a Fulbright in 1996 to study in Switzerland, followed by a DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, or German Academic Exchange Service) at the University of Munich in Germany.

Bailey had help from Robert Lerner, professor of history, throughout the process. "He not only had experience," says Bailey, "he was committed. He went over many, many drafts of my proposal, fine-tuning it. At some points we were talking about individual words."

One of the toughest parts to obtaining many fellowships is the strenuous, even confrontational interview, often a series of grueling interviews. Sean McDevitt (GSM92), who won a Luce Scholarship for a business internship in Asia, was especially grateful for the intense interview prepping he first received at Northwestern.

"It was basically a four-on-one question-and-answer panel for four hours," he says. The inquisitors had thoroughly reviewed McDevitt's letters of recommendation from professionals and academics, his transcript and his essay. "It was a horseshoe setup and they peppered me with questions mercilessly. It was extremely difficult and challenging."

After being nominated, McDevitt was sent to San Francisco with 45 national finalists for a day of back-to-back hourlong interviews by a panel that included CEOs, presidents of major corporations and American ambassadors.

If the process of applying can be a tough go, the experience provided by the fellowship is almost always so memorable that it remains a professional high point. "There's no way to underestimate it, particularly if you stay in academics," says Pardoe. "The fellowships stay with you as a mark of approval from then on. When you apply to graduate schools in the States, it's a foot in the door."

Personally, the enrichment is just as intense. "I grew incredibly and formed the closest relationships in my life," Pardoe relates. "Now I have friends from all over the world. Once you've been through that crucible of bonding, you just can't undo it."

Olivia Wu is a freelance writer based in Skokie, Ill.

Illustration by Coco Masuda; Sara Anson Vaux photo by John Sundlof; Sarah Crosby Campbell photo by Greg Campbell


Patrick Anderson relaxing over dinner in Sri Lanka

The Tough Get Going
Dream your dreams but be ready to "rough" it, say fellowship experts. That's what propelled Patrick Anderson (S96) to Sri Lanka and Jane Dean (WCAS96) to Costa Rica, both in 1996-97.

During Anderson's Fulbright-sponsored sojourn to Sri Lanka, he lived with a host family who called him "suddhaputa," or white son. From the start, they fully involved him in their lives, including several crises.

His project was a study of dialogue between religious groups in Sri Lanka. While he was never in immediate danger from the ethnic and religious conflict plaguing Sri Lanka, he was often near sites of bomb attacks.

Anderson, who now teaches communications to a class of 160 undergraduates at the University of North Carolina while supervising graduate teaching assistants, feels that extra responsibilities he has been given are due in part to his Fulbright experience.

As for Dean, saving the rain forest had been an issue close to her heart. Completing a double major in economics and international studies, she won a Fulbright to measure the worth of a rain forest in tourism dollars. She found the perfect academic sponsoring organization in CATIE, a Spanish acronym for the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Studies, located in a remote Costa Rican province.

That's how she ended up in a dorm without air conditioning or hot water, the only native English speaker surrounded by graduate students from all over Latin America.


Jane Dean in Limon, Costa Rica, with the daughter of the owner of an open-air roadside cafe

One of her goals was to add evidence to the argument that keeping the rain forests was more beneficial than cutting them down, and, indeed, her findings supported her thesis.

She credits the Fulbright for creating opportunities for herself and what she champions. "Ecotourism is the wave of the future - it's the fastest-growing form of tourism. I see a future with that, for me and for the environment." -O.W.


Sara Anson Vaux


Sarah Crosby Campbell (J88, GJ88)

Pointers from the Pros
What do you need to know to obtain a major fellowship? Here are some thoughts at large from Sara Anson Vaux, director of Northwestern's Office of Fellowships; Tom Farrell, vice president of exchange programs for the Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program; and Sarah Crosby Campbell (J88, GJ88), a Rhodes Scholar from 1988 to 1990 who now serves as state secretary for the Rhodes committee in her home state of Mississippi.

Vaux: For the Rhodes, Marshall and Luce, you'd better have an A average, 3.7 or better out of 4.0, a tough course load and evidence of a commitment to community service. For the Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies and the National Science Foundation, what matters is how good you are in your field and how well you articulate your intellectual interests.

Crosby Campbell: I think freshman year is a little early to be applying. But identifying and encouraging students early is good. Helping them to write essays and applications that make sense is important.

Vaux: Students shouldn't think that one [fellowship] cancels out the other. If a student qualifies by GPA [grade point average], look at these big fellowships and get a sense for the long time line or the big picture.

Farrell: The trend in undergraduate and graduate schools is students who want to study abroad. In addition, students are applying for more of the nontraditional receiving countries. What we're seeing now is applications for Asia and a healthy interest in Latin America and in Africa.

Crosby Campbell: Sometimes we get applications from students who say they want to study something that's not even offered at Oxford. They've not even looked at the Oxford catalog. ... The Rhodes applications go straight to Oxford. There's no time to change. The applications have to be Oxford-ready.

Farrell: The Fulbright really is an open competition for all fields of study, not just social science or humanities or fine arts. For just one academic year, an applicant can define what he or she can do abroad.