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Meet our 2016-2017 Fellowships Ambassadors!

January 6, 2017

Meet our 2016-2017 Fellowships Ambassadors!

Applying for fellowships can be a difficult, but rewarding process. Each year, dedicated students and alums volunteer to help other Drexel students through the process of finding and applying for fellowships. As Drexel Fellowships Ambassadors, these students help make this seemingly daunting task a worthwhile investment.

We asked some of this year’s Fellowships Ambassadors about their experiences with the Fellowships Office, the process of applying for awards, and what advice they have for other Drexel students as they decide to start their own fellowships process. Here’s what they had to say!

Why are you interested in being a Fellowships Ambassador?

Whether it’s an interest in giving back to the Fellowships Office or paying forward to other students, Fellowship Ambassadors are dedicated to helping their fellow Dragons and raising awareness of fellowship opportunities.

Some, like Cali Chesterman (BS Animation & Visual Effects ‘17), emphasized the importance of representing their major or school in Fellowships outreach and publicity.  It’s important to me that we are represented as we can be pigeonholed as the ‘art school’,” explained Cali, who received a Gilman Scholarship to support a co-op in China. “Our skillsets have a lot of practical applications to other fields and I want to see more cross-disciplinary projects and pursuits.”

Several ambassadors mentioned how important peer mentoring and feedback had been in their own application process.  Matthew Parsons (BS Physics ’15, Honors) talked about the importance of “having input from a diverse group of people” during the application process. “Everyone's experience with applying to fellowships is going to be different,” he explained, “and I think it is really valuable to talk to as many people as you can to find out what worked for them and what didn't.” The importance of talking to former applicants was echoed by Sarah Gleeson (PhD student, Materials Science & Engineering), who told us “it was extremely helpful to talk to other students who had already gone through the process.” As Ambassadors, they look forward to providing feedback and advice to other applicants at Drexel.

On the challenges facing Drexel students and how the Fellowships Office helps…

When we asked the ambassadors about this, many responded that the time constraints and schedules of Drexel students make it difficult to find time for anything outside of their normal course of study.

Nick Barber (BS Geoscience ’18, Honors) explained that the 10 week cycles make the biggest challenge “balancing between school work, extracurricular activities, a job, and a social life” but that with the help of the Fellowships Office, he was able to effectively manage his time. “Honestly the best part about working with DFO for me has been the counseling, both personal and professional, that the staff have offered me. With their help I've managed to make the past year the most productive and successful of my college career.”

Once a student starts the fellowships process, Scott Lerner (PhD Student, Electrical Engineering) explains “some of the biggest problems Drexel students applying for fellowships face is complacency and acceptance of their application” but when it comes to essays, “writing attempts get better with each iteration and outside feedback”. Vince O’Leary (BS Environmental Science & Geoscience ’18, Honors) believes “Even for rejections, the time spent on applications was invaluable to me and helped me ask tough questions about my future and my accomplishments at Drexel. Just as co-ops can help students get experience in the field and think about what they are doing, fellowships help students think about why they even want to do that”.

What advice do you have for a student applying for a fellowship (or advice in general)?

Nearly every Ambassador we asked gave a similar response: “Start early!”

Starting at least six to eight weeks in advance of the deadline leaves enough time to take breaks, get feedback, and balance other commitments and assignments. Alexandra Pickens (BA International Area Studies ’17, Honors) advises that students, “do your research and plan early…and take the revision process seriously.” “Even if you don’t think you have time for a fellowship application,” says Josa Hanzlik (PhD Biomedical Engineering ’15), “make time.” This will be important when it’s time to revise and polish your materials. “Start early, and get as many different people to read through your statements as possible” says Sarah Gleeson.  Starting early will also leave you enough time to “set the application aside for a while” suggests Tim Gorichanaz (PhD Student Information Studies). “You’ll come back to it with surprising insights.”

While applying for fellowships takes a lot of work, our ambassadors agree that the effort is worth it in the end, no matter the result. Karthik (Paco) Sangaiaha PhD Candidate in Computer Engineering suggests, “don't get discouraged if you feel you have to rewrite huge chunks or essays. This process will make you a better writer and hopefully more comfortable with peer-reviewed work!” Amanda Pentecost,a dual PhD/MS candidate and NSF GRFP, Boren and Whitaker recipient, states that “going through the process of writing personal statements, in particular, really helps you to do some self-analysis and discover what makes you ‘you’ …I discovered that what makes me unique is my passion for combining engineering and international collaboration”. When reflecting on her Gilman application process, Madeline Demas (BS Digital Storytelling ‘18),agreed  sayingyou get to look inside yourself and truly figure out some of your aspirations and goals for the future, things you can work on after the process even if you don't get the scholarship”.


Overall, these students have a variety of experiences from their areas of study to the awards they’ve applied to and those they’ve received. Whether you are looking for application advice or just where to start, the Fellowships Ambassadors are here to lend a hand. You may see them at one of our events, and when you do, don’t hesitate to say hello!