Encourage Your Students to Apply
—Ruth Ost, Director, Honors Program
Director, Honors Program
A colleague recently called to ask how our students fare after they graduate from Temple. Her daughter, an outstanding high school senior by every measure, was facing a May 1 deadline: Should she come to Temple, or go elsewhere?
This professor knows the success stories of her own students, which are many, but not those in the other schools and colleges at TU. Because Temple’s faculty are in it together—doing outstanding work as teachers, scholars and mentors—you deserve bragging rights across the campuses.
In case anyone asks, you could begin here: our grads flourish at Harvard, Penn, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Temple, MIT, Oxford, the Film Institute of America, etc. They land jobs at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Morgan Stanley; they “Teach for America” and join the Peace Corps. They publish memoirs. They are Marshall, Truman, Jack Kent Cooke, and Udall scholars; they are Rhodes finalists. They are Honorable Mention, USA Today Academic All-Stars. That is just for starters.
Scholars love specifics. Here are a few (want more? please ask): Bedelia Richards will graduate from Johns Hopkins in May with a Ph.D. in sociology; Mike Paulauskas, in the Ph.D. program in history at UNC, just won a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (36K) to study in Moscow; Erin Cusack, CLA ’08, won an ETA Fulbright to Spain; Robert Amir Berry, CLA ’08, won a Fulbright to Jordan and Oman; and Andrea Calderise, a Tyler undergrad, won a Yale Summer Fellowship. That was last week’s news. This week Allison Pymer said yes to Berkeley for a Ph.D. in chemistry and Mike Campanell said yes to Princeton for a Ph.D. in physics.
But here’s the deal: we could be doing better on the scholarship and fellowship front. What can we do to improve our students’ chances, making them more competitive? We’ve made tremendous headway by instituting university awards such as the Library Prize (congrats to this year’s winners from SCT, Boyer and CLA!), Diamond Scholars, Peer Teachers and Ambassadors Awards—and Diamond Awards through the Division of Student Affairs. URIF grants (Undergraduate Research Incentive Funds) and the Provost have supported travel to conferences. CST is offering summer research opportunities. TURF/CreWS participation has grown. We can do more, but meanwhile there is a simple intervention: you can convince our amazing and inspiring students to apply.
So why don’t they?
Many of them are not familiar with the likes of Rhodes, Marshalls or Goldwaters. (Just last week a student asked what Phi Beta Kappa is, letter of invitation in hand.) If they have heard of them and read winners’ profiles, they’re sure they can’t compete. Our students tend to be modest. They don’t know that they’re doing astonishing things; they just do what they do. Entitlement is not in their vocabulary. Further, they have so many demands on their time—most have to hold down jobs—that adding the work of these applications when winning is such a long shot seems like cruel and unusual punishment.
We can turn this around, as many of you already have, by letting students know you think they are worthy of applying and that it’s worth doing, win or lose. As one student said, reflecting on the process: “You get to the heart of who you are and what you are about when you sit with these applications. You learn what is important to you. And you can use those personal statements—it’s rough to write them—for grad school, Memorial Awards, Diamond Awards and internship applications.” What works is encouraging, cajoling, and, if need be, pestering them until they go through with it.
Here is what would help before the semester ends:
1. If you have talented students, Honors or not, who should be applying for fellowships in any field, send them my way. They can either stop by 204 Tuttleman or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Send me their names and a couple of sentences about why they are special, and I will contact them.
3. Let me know if you would like to serve on a university committee working with applicants for Rhodes, Marshalls, Udalls, Trumans, etc. (If you would like to help out with Fulbrights, I will pass your names along to Denise Connerty).
Thanks for serving on scholarship committees this year: Heidi Ramirez, Duncan Hollis, Hawley Fogg-Davis, Robin Kolodny, Elizabeth Varon, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Scott Gratson, Denise Connerty, Laura Levitt, David Watt, Deborah Fowlkes and Fay Trachtenberg. As well, thanks to those of you who worked with applicants and wrote recommendations. And thanks to everyone who has taught and inspired our remarkable students.
As for our colleague’s daughter, she chose Temple!