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Fulfilling the Academic Mission: Prestigious Fellowships


Fulfilling the Academic Mission

The success of Fordham’s Office of Prestigious Fellowships is bringing
more honors to students and to the University.

When Fordham’s Office of Prestigious Fellowships encouraged Emily Pontzer (FCRH ’05) to apply for an Eisenhower Fellowship, she had her doubts.

“I’m an English major,” she said, “so I hadn’t actually considered the Eisenhower, which emphasizes international study and cooperation.” But through Fordham’s Global Outreach Program, Pontzer had worked with missionaries in Calcutta, India, an experience that made her a good candidate for the Eisenhower. She won the fellowship, and traveled to Fiji for a crash course in that country’s economic, legal and health care systems.

“It was John Kezel [University director of the Office for Prestigious Fellowships] and his colleagues, Kim Benard and Maria Noonan, in the office who enabled me to envision my education in broader terms,” said Pontzer. “They saw me through the entire process and were helpful on every level.”

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, has challenged the University community to help make Fordham the premiere Catholic university in North America. And increasing the number of prestigious fellows is a cornerstone of that effort.

Created just six years ago, the Office for Prestigious Fellowships has had great success in fulfilling its two-part mission: to increase the number of prestigious fellowships—Rhodes, Fulbright, Mellon, Truman and other competitive scholarships—awarded to Fordham students, and to promote the overall intellectual activity of the University.

“This year we had 83 applicants for fellowships,” said John Kezel, Ph.D., “and 45 of those received awards. This included eight Fulbrights, up from four only one year ago, as well as the University’s first Eisenhower and Bosch Fellowships. These results place us in the top three (with Georgetown and Boston College) of Jesuit universities in terms of student fellowship recipients.”

The numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t tell the whole story. Behind them is an ongoing effort by Kezel and his colleagues to ensure that the best is yet to come. And it all starts with getting the word out.

“The most important thing for us at the moment is to get more faculty involved,” Kezel said. With that in mind, the office has established a university-wide fellowship executive committee and is setting up individual committees representing each fellowship. Kezel also speaks before the academic committee of the Board of Trustees each year and regularly addresses University assemblies to encourage student and faculty participation in fellowship programs.

In addition, the office has restructured its Matteo Ricci Society, an undergraduate honors group, to better identify and support students with fellowship potential. And in a new initiative, the office has created the Matteo Ricci Summer Fellowship Program, in which undergraduates partner with faculty mentors on research projects, work that might inspire fellowship applications.

“This year we will also start working with incoming presidential and other student scholars to learn what they might be interested in, in terms of fellowships,” said Kezel. If the office can continue to develop such support programs, he added, particularly with faculty participation, Fordham should continue to see a rise in the number of fellowships awarded to its students. “This activity goes a long way toward raising the university’s visibility and attracting better students.”

Just ask Pontzer. She is now applying for a British Marshall Fellowship to pursue graduate studies in Anglo-Saxon literature.

— Craig Smith

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