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Faculty Profiles

The Curve Track I: An Interview with Dr. Shivanthi Anandan

Dr. Shivanthi Anandan loves what she does.  You can tell from her enthusiasm and the openness with which she shares her hard-earned wisdom about what it means to be a scholar, a mentor, a parent and a whole person.  As Associate Professor of Biology at Drexel, Dr. Anandan has collaborated over the past few years with the Fellowships Office to help students prepare their applications for the prestigious and highly competitive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and Goldwater Scholarships. She is also Co-Director of the Drexel Center for Academic Excellence and Co-Director at the Drexel Smart House.  

Recently we got to talk with her about some of the most definitive experiences in her life and career, what has made her the powerhouse she is today.

Drexel Fellowships Office (DFO): Can you tell us what it was like when you were starting out?

Shivanthi Anandan (SA): I call my path “the curve track.” I was a high achiever in school and when I finished, I knew I wanted a graduate degree.  My family was very progressive for that time and place, but my father was a conservative man and I was his little girl.  My mother stopped working after marriage because my father didn’t want her to work, so there was this understanding imparted to me that the woman’s career comes second for the greater good of the family. After college, I fell for my husband, a physicist. We went to Berkeley, then Munich, where my son was born, and then things didn’t work.

When I look back on the girl I was, I think, Wow, I was so naïve! When you’re a high achiever, it’s hard to recognize something not working. Or if you recognize it, it’s something you believe you can fix.  One thing you have to realize is that you cannot be putting in 100% of the relationship by yourself and expect it to work. So I decided to do what I was good at.  My GREs were very strong and I decided to go to grad school with my son.  I was happy, even as a single parent with a kid, and we managed just fine. Eventually, my husband and I got divorced. I finished my PhD, then did a postgraduate.

DFO: As a young scholar, did you ever apply for an award or a scholarship you really wanted that you didn’t get?

SA: My first rejection was when I applied for a Fulbright after my undergraduate.  First of all, my GREs and TOEFL were out of sight. I had met my husband and I was working on this wonderful research when he suggested that I should apply for a Fulbright. So I did and I made it all the way to the interview. My credentials were very good and the American interviewer was clearly impressed.  But then he asked, “Would you be going to the US anyway since you’re getting married?” I said, “Yes. My husband is to be a postdoc at Berkeley so I will be living in Berkeley, California.” And he said, “Ok, I’m going to tell you how the decision is going.  You are not getting this scholarship because you’re going to the States anyway and many graduate schools will want you.  I want to give this scholarship to someone who doesn’t have your opportunities.”

“[We] don’t like change. It takes an opportunity or a rejection – and sometimes they’re the same thing – to get [us] to change.“

I just blinked at him like he had slapped me in the face. Today I would have the backbone to argue with him and say, “I hear you, but that is not the purpose of the Fulbright,” but looking at where I am now, I think he made the best choice. We were in Sri Lanka, a Third World country, where people very rarely got the chance to go to the States. He gave someone else the chance to go who probably couldn’t have gone otherwise.  I took classes at Berkeley and I nailed them.  Then I got offers fom Duke and UCLA.  I got pretty much anything I wanted. He was right, but at the time I didn’t have the depth to see the long term because all I saw was the rejection.

DFO: Do you have a different perspective on that experience now?

SA: Here’s the thing. In college it’s kind of simple. You study, you work hard, you get the awards. You can figure out strategies to be high-achieving successfully. But then comes the life component, which isn’t as easy to figure out.  Hard work doesn’t always guarantee the outcome.

Without those experiences of failure, I would have been a terribly arrogant woman. If I had had all those successes and got to wherever I wanted, I may not have had my child, I wouldn’t have learned how to deal with a bad relationship, and in a way that was the way it had to be. Sometimes I see this in some of the young people and I think, “Oh, dear, if it always goes your way, what kind of depth could you possibly gain?” Rejection, failure, in a strange way, makes you a better person. It makes you more human. 

No one’s life is perfect that they will always be successful. Now I look back and say, ok, remember that marriage, remember that you came out of it and put your life back together – you can use that as a confidence builder for where you are going, not as a negative thing, but as an agent of change.  And if you know me, I don’t like change. It takes an opportunity or a rejection – and sometimes they’re the same thing – to get me to change. Of course I still don’t like rejection but now I am more confident to say, “Alright, now what?

The Curve Track II: An Interview with Dr. Shivanthi Anandan

The following is a continuation of our interview with Dr. Shivanthi Anandan, Associate Professor of Biology at Drexel University, Co-Director of the Drexel Center for Academic Excellence and Co-Director of the Drexel Smart House.

Drexel Fellowships Office (DFO): Why do you love what you do?

Shivanthi Ananda (SA):
I like being a researcher because I’m a curious person.  I look at things and I go, “What if?” and that’s just one of those things that can’t be taught.  And I love mentoring students in my labs and classes, in my work with Fellowships – all students, but especially young women.  I went to graduate school as an older person. Everyone in my group was about twenty-eight to mid-thirties so we all had a lot to prove. During that time, I promised myself if I ever got to a tenure track position, I would help women as much as I could because the glass ceiling is still there.

DFO: Do you still deal with rejection in your present position?

SA: All of us write grants and we don’t get half the grants we write. Every time, it’s like giving birth. It’s very personal and then you get these people critiquing it, and sometimes they really don’t get what you’re trying to say.  I know what it’s like to want to tell them, “I’m sorry but it’s not my fault!” Because it’s easy to devalue opportunity, but rejection always has the same impact. It has no compunction. It reminds you that you can always do something better, or at least, differently.  Now, I like grant writing because it clarifies my ideas. I do my best and send my drafts out to a few people, then when it finally goes out, I just compartmentalize it and move on. Instead of sitting there feeling, “I hope! I want! I wish!” I decide that I’ve done my best and it’s out my hands.  It took a long time for me to learn this. For high achievers this is very hard because we want to do all of it well, not just one thing.

DFO: What advice do you have for students who might have applied for a fellowship but didn’t get it?

SA: Let yourself feel bad. Don’t smooth it over or try to cover it up or hide it, just let yourself feel disappointed and annoyed and, “How dare they!” and, “My God, what do you mean I’m not good enough!” because you are human.  You have to work through that; otherwise it will haunt you.  Not feeling good enough: that is the death knell for high achievers, so talk to your friends, eat the ice cream, kick the doors – that’s personally how I express my annoyance; but then, plan.
Take all that anger and use it for your next steps. Not in a vengeful, “I’ll show you!” super-villain way, but think, Ok, now what is my plan if I want to resubmit?  Plan A did not work, so chances are it will not work again. When we’re younger, we often can’t see that and that lesson is the hardest one after rejection. So what are you going to do to your plan A?  You don’t have to be alone in that, you can ask people for help, you can engage in reflection. Write that stuff down.

DFO: Why do you want to help Drexel students apply for these fellowships? What is satisfying about it from a faculty perspective?

SA: We have a lot of talent here and one way of raising Drexel’s profile as a fabulous place is to make it a university where there are lots of Goldwaters, and Fulbrights, and NSFs! The Fellowships Office really makes it easy for faculty to get involved. I started working with Rona on the NSF Graduate Research committee, and a couple years ago she asked me if I could do Goldwater, which is a bit more commitment in terms of time and reviewing. Rona is very organized, which makes it easy to review the materials, and she facilitates the committees without trying to control the results. It’s amazing how quickly we are able to reach consensus.  And between her and Cindy, I am really getting training on how to write the best letters of recommendation. Their comments are spot-on and communicated with authority, but without offense. And then they send you chocolate when you’re done!
We have wonderful young faculty at Drexel – the Goldwater Committee for example, are research heavies and very talented. We work well together because we work from the heart and we trust each other. And the Goldwater kids are such absolutely nice kids; they really make us feel like we haven’t accomplished anything! I really want Drexel faculty to have pride and often that’s all about grants, publications, and so on, but this is another way of being proud without stressing ourselves out: Look at our students! Aren’t they amazing?

Interview with the Drexel Writing Center: Part I, The Personal Statement

Kerri Riveley is a Faculty Writing Fellow at the Drexel Writing Center and the Project Coordinator of the DWC-DFO Partnership, in which a team of dedicated faculty support fellowship applicants in their writing processes as they craft their essays. In addition to writing center pedagogies, Kerri’s research interests lie in extra-institutional and self-initiated writing practices.

Drexel Fellowships Office: What should be my goal when writing the personal statement?

Kerri Riveley:
It depends on the particular fellowship that you are applying for, but overall, not only should your goal be to represent the best version of yourself, but also to do a lot of self-introspection, to really reflect on your life choices, and how they have led you to the goal that you ultimately want to achieve.

DFO: What are the most common misconceptions students have about writing the personal statement?

KR: I think that sometimes people think they’re just going to pound something out, and that’ll be it. It’s a much more in depth, complicated process with many, many revisions. So, it is imperative not to have the misconception that it’s going to be quick, easy and painless. It’s going to require a lot of time and dedication.
Introspection and reflection are very challenging for people. Talking about themselves, in creative and engaging sense, might be a little unusual, especially if they come from scientific backgrounds. So tapping into that kind of writing can definitely be challenging.
That being said, I see people come out of it feeling more confident, having a better understanding of why they made the choice to get where they are today, with a better understanding of both their past and their future in the context of their past.

DFO: Why is the personal statement such an important part of most fellowship applications?

KR: Most of these fellowships not only fund important research that can change the world, but have some sort of human connection element. Be it being an ambassador to another country or collaborative work, being able to work on a team well, and strengthening the scientific community – part of what enables people to do this is having a good understanding of who they are as a person.

DFO: How much emphasis should there be on stories of personal growth versus professional or academic achievements/activities?

KR: It depends on the fellowship you are applying for but the balance should be what works best with your own personal story and your personal goals. Sometimes it’s going to be giving equal emphasis to both, sometimes it’s really going to be emphasizing a pivotal moment that has led you to the path that you want to go down, sometimes it’s going to be prior academic experiences that have been life changing for you. So, it depends on who you are. You are going to let shine what feels most real about you.

For example, for Fulbright you’ve got two essays to write: one is the personal statement, one is the statement of grant purpose which is your project description. They want to know your personal story, and they want to know about your professional and academic experience. So you could have some in one and some in the other essay but they have to work together to show this full picture of yourself. Do you have what it takes to pull off the project that you want to do? Are you someone who has experienced personal growth, learned about yourself in the process, knows about your motivation and where your drive comes from, and also has the necessary background and skills to achieve your goals?

DFO: Students are encouraged to be specific rather than make vague, declarative statements about themselves. Can you give us an example of this? Conversely, how much detail is too much detail?

KR: Sometimes people know so much about their project that they want to say everything about it. The biggest constraint is space. When you have only got one or two pages, you can’t really go into all that detail. Knowing what’s necessary and what isn’t is tricky, but you should be able to give a clear and concise picture so that a person who is not in your field, with average intelligence, can understand accurately what your project is.

Sometimes it means explaining some terminology, providing background about the things you’re talking about. I think it’s generally a good strategy to write out everything that comes to mind and then chop away from there, thinking about space constraints and clarity.

It could be helpful to have outside readers, especially for Fulbright as it is likely that the people reading are not going to be in your field. NSF, it’s more likely to have someone from your field. But if I, someone with no scientific background, reads it and does not understand whatsoever, that probably means it’s too technical with too much scientific detail that is unnecessary.

DFO: From your experience, what are the three elements of a successful personal statement?

KR: Remember that [selection committees] are reading hundreds of essays. I’m struck by that element of realness, that makes you seem like a real person, something that makes you unforgettable, something that they are going to remember and make them go, “Oh yeah that’s that person who did such and such crazy thing.” Details that reflect depth to you instead of just a list of your experiences or your goals. That’s the kind of stuff that really sticks out to me, when people really capture the essence of who they are.

This is where introspection and self-reflection come in. You have to really think about who you are to be able to communicate it in writing to somebody else. When you think about yourself, who you are, your past achievements, your prior academic experiences, your goals for future research, all of that need to fit in a kind of unifying, cohesive story.

So three words for the personal statement – it should be genuine, compelling, and engaging.

Interview with the Drexel Writing Center: Part II, The Project Proposal

Kerri Riveley is a Faculty Writing Fellow at the Drexel Writing Center and the Project Coordinator of the DWC-DFO Partnership, in which a team of dedicated faculty support fellowship applicants in their writing processes as they craft their essays. In addition to writing center pedagogies, Kerri’s research interests lie in extra-institutional and self-initiated writing practices.

Recently, we picked Kerri’s brain about the personal statement. Since then, we’ve continued the conversation to bring you insights about another common (and critical!) element of the fellowships application process: the project proposal.

Drexel Fellowships Office: How much background do I need to provide for my proposed project?

KR: The requirements are different for each fellowship and so, it is important to remember to follow the guidelines provided by the institutions. For example, for Fulbright some background to a project is definitely necessary. A few of the elements that must be in this application are: cultural connection, affiliation with your host country/university, your past research, and your future goals. As an applicant to the Fulbright fellowship, it is your responsibility to connect all of these elements together and explain their relevance with the country that you plan to go to, as well as to the US.

The reader needs to understand the significance of the project that you plan to undertake and its relation to the host country and, to America. This essay is where some background can show why the project is worthwhile to you. At the same time, you don’t have the space to delve into great details about the project, so it’s a tricky thing to balance. For example, if a student is planning to go and study water filtration techniques in India, he/she should show the relevance of the project to the population of the host country as well as to future research in America.

DFO: How much emphasis should be placed on the researcher’s goals and/or the budgetary use of the grant, when writing the project proposal?

KR: In my experience, there haven’t been a lot of applicants who explicitly detail out the budgetary breakdown in their project proposal. The money received as a part of the grant is looked at as more of a means to an end. The main focus of this essay is the research that the student is conducting or the project that he/she is working on. In certain applications, it may be required to break down the budget to explain how and where the money will be used. This, however, will be typically asked for in sections other than the essays.

DFO: Between the two notions – research is more important for the betterment of humanity, or research should be done for the advancement of the scientific community – which carries more weight when it comes to applying for fellowships?

KR: Some fellowships are interested in the betterment of humanity while others are focused on the advancement of the scientific community. It is, therefore, very important to know the goals and mission of the fellowship that one is applying to. A single project can be put forth in multiple ways to match the requirements of the different fellowships and be in line with the expectations.

DFO: The notion “Make me care,” is something that we often hear when it comes to the project proposal. What does a student need to consider when thinking about his or her audience?

KR: It is important to research the background of the readers because chances are they are not in the same discipline as you. Knowing your readers can help determine the kind of terminology to use in your project proposal, what terms to define and concepts to explain. For example, for NSF the grant statement is expected to be a little more technical than a Fulbright essay. Parallels can be drawn between writing for Fulbright and writing for the New York Times magazine: the essay should be accessible to the average, educated reader, and interesting enough of a topic to elaborate on with some detail. Also, it is helpful to get feedback from your advisors and peers. People from your field can point out things that do not make sense technically while people outside your field can help determine if the essay is too technical.

DFO: What is the practice of the DWC when working with students on drafting and revising their essays? What can student expect from a session? Can students use multiple sessions and/or get feedback from more than one staff member of the DWC?

KR: At the Writing Center, we understand that writing is a grueling, self-reflective and almost an emotionally draining process. We are here to help you through it, to revise, to come into a better context of who you are and what drives and motivates you. I believe everyone has the ability to tap into that aspect of themselves.

We work one-on-one with each applicant. DWC sessions are very student centered which means that the applicant decides what he/she wants to work on. If they are concerned regarding the general flow of the essay, the transitions or the wordiness of the essays, we work with them to address these concerns. The sessions are very conversation based and there are a lot of questions that go back and forth while solving the issues. It isn’t that the students bring in a paper and we revise it for them. It is a slow gradual process where the student is the person who decides what needs to change and how. There are a lot of revisions and we work with the student to figure out gradually what works best.  Students are also welcome to work with multiple tutors and have multiple sessions.

If you are fellowship applicant, we highly recommend that you take advantage of this resource and sign up for a session with the Drexel Writing Center.


Enriching the LeBow Experience: An Interview with Assistant Dean Brian Ellis


While LeBow students may not traditionally think of themselves as a good fit for national fellowships, there are definitely programs interested in the skills and experiences of Business and Economics students. Brian Ellis, assistant dean of the LeBow College of Business’s undergraduate programs, and his leadership team (LEAD), are eager to help students find the right opportunities. “It’s all about building and developing relationships,” he says.

Drexel Fellowships Office (DFO): Why do you think it’s important for LeBow students to apply for fellowships? 

Brian Ellis (BE): The DNA of this university is experienced-based learning and [some] fellowships afford students the ability to gain different experiences academically and globalize their education in a number of ways.

Fellowships also allow students to pursue research roles in a supported environment, and with both academic and financial backing. Students also gain access to a broader group of scholars and possible travel opportunities. 

What would you say to encourage students to apply for fellowships apropos to your college?

BE: It’s all about taking advantages of opportunities. Fellowships afford students the ability to enrich the whole academic experience. 

DFO: What are common obstacles that business students might face — if any — in applying for fellowships?

BE: Many fellowships involve research. And business students may think that doesn’t apply to them. They think, ‘I’m not a scientist or engineer, so this isn’t for me.’ And there is a view that business is more about making money than studying it as an academic pursuit. 

DFO: How can those obstacles be overcome or mitigated?

LEAD: It’s twofold: Knowledge. Information. For both the students and advisors.

We need to evolve students’ perceptions of what business is and what is possible when business works towards the common good by stressing critical thinking, giving back to the community, and good citizenship. 

DFO: What advice do you have for students who’ve previously applied for fellowships and didn’t get them? 

BE: Try and try again. Take more advantage of opportunities here at the university level. Help create a better CV for yourself. Continue furthering your personal credentials. And then solicit feedback. Develop relationships with faculty. With advisors. With the Fellowships Office. It’s all about building and developing relationships.

Being Able to Explain Yourself Academically: An Interview with LeBow's Chris Laincz

Nevena Bosnic was one of those exceptional, top-achieving students when she came to work as a research assistant with Dr. Chris Laincz of the Department of Economics. She was an aggressive go-getter and on top of everything. So it was no surprise that it was Bosnic (Economics, BS, ’12) who introduced Laincz to the Drexel Fellowships Office while she was parlaying her interests in economics, politics and policy into an application for the Carnegie Junior Fellows Program.

“I didn’t even know they existed but found Rona, the director of the Fellowships Office, to be really helpful and really on top of what she is doing,” Laincz says. 

When Laincz became the head of the LeBow PhD Program two years ago, he set out to find resources that could benefit his students.

“The Fellowships Office was one of the first offices we went to,” Laincz says. 

Recently, the Fellowships Office sat down with Lainz to find out why.

Drexel Fellowships Office (DFO): What would you say to encourage LeBow students to apply for fellowships?
CL: I tell them that it’s an important practice for their job prospects. There’s a lot of money out there that you are ignoring that you could have. And the practice and experience of going through it will serve you well. You have to expect that it is going to be part of your career.

DFO: Why do you think it’s important for your students to apply for fellowships?
CL: Ideally our students are going on to academic positions and it is a really cutthroat competitive market and they really need to be able to explain themselves. So a lot of the practice of a fellowship application is writing about your research. It is one thing to explain your research in your academic area, but you have to be able to explain this to deans or administration. It is so important to get your own language down as a researcher and academic.

Going through this can also help you with a job interview. A fellowship application can force you to sit down and think about answers to critical questions. And then you’ll have the answers in your arsenal.

Plus, PhDs are very expensive so any help they can get to get through this, the better. 

DFO: What are common obstacles that business students face in applying for fellowships?
CL: Time constraints. Putting a fellowship application together is hard enough but they can be difficult just to locate. Most of the grant money that is out there is for engineering and hard sciences. So the most time consuming process is finding them. I wish we had a better mechanism for letting students know what’s out there.

LeBow could use a full-time person – someone looking for the fellowships and then selecting students who fit the bill.

DFO: What advice do you have for students who’ve previously applied for fellowships and didn’t get them?
CL: Keep trying. I suppose everyone says keep trying. It could be how much input and feedback and collaboration you had when you applied. It might be as simple as 50 typos on page 1. No matter how good your credentials are, that isn’t going to fly. Keep your eyes out for the next one because you’ve already done a lot of the work. The first one is the hardest one to get done.

Going Abroad as a Foundation for the Future: Interview with Dr. Joel Oestreich

Joel Oestreich is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of International Area Studies. He has participated in fellowships committees organized by the DFO for the Fulbright US Student Program, the Carnegie Junior Fellows Program and the Boren Scholarship. 

Drexel Fellowships Office: How have your experiences abroad contributed to your personal and professional growth?

Joel Oestreich:
I’ve lived abroad a few times. I did my Master’s Degree in the UK and lived there for 2 years, then for almost a year in Bangladesh.  I did the Fulbright in India a year and a half ago and I’ve traveled pretty extensively beyond that as well. I run the International Area Studies program and trying to get every one of our students to go abroad has been a key part of our project.  There are some obvious advantages. You get to learn a foreign language, and if you already speak some, it’s the best way to become fluent.  You get to experience a different culture which is nice – whether that be Dhaka or Paris, you get to have adventures and do things that you otherwise couldn’t at home.  You also get a different perspective on the US from being with people who have different belief systems.

Another advantage is, I found a vocation in Bangladesh. At the time I was only interested in working in the US and Western Europe. I was living Dhaka almost on a whim and it changed what I thought was important in my life and what I thought I wanted to do with myself.  I’ve been working on economic development and human rights issues since but I never had any interest in those things before I went abroad. I had no idea what was out there.  And I’m not saying you necessarily have to find a humanitarian interest, you could very well end up in Europe doing international business.  The key is that it can really shape your perception of what’s important to yourself and open up different possibilities.

DFO: What is the advantage of being a Fulbright recipient?

JO: It’s incredibly prestigious.  It looks great on your resume and graduate school application.  It’s an opportunity to live abroad and have someone pay for it, and a great opportunity to pursue what you’re passionate about while building a foundation for your future.  For instance, you can study agricultural techniques in another part of the world and if you want to go work in food security, that’s a great experience to have that otherwise would be very difficult to get. Also, you become part of a community of people.  There were dozens of Fulbrighters in India, so when I traveled around I always had people I could look up and stay with.

DFO: Why do think students might hesitate to apply?

JO: I don’t want to speculate, but there is something about that way of thinking, “What do other countries have to teach us? We already have best this or that in Ann Arbor or Berkeley or whatever.” I travel a lot and I’m always meeting people – a lot of Europeans and Australians, but rarely Americans who are traveling for extended periods of time.  I remember talking to someone years ago about that.  There was a group of us, including this one American who asked, “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll be behind your peers when you get back?” That’s so American. This fear that you’ll be 25 with a 23-year-old’s job. Or parents being afraid that their kids will be robbed and murdered in a Third World country, which won’t happen. Or afraid that if they go to Europe, everybody hates America there! None of these things are true.

I’ve been in and out of the private sector for years and employers like having worldly, traveled people.  Going abroad makes a person more worldly and sophisticated, and in any business enterprise that’s an advantage.   This obsession with making every minute count towards one’s career is simply misplaced.  Travel is so much more important than that slight advantage of being at home slaving away for years – in fact your friends will be jealous of you. They’ll tell you, “Wow I should have done what you did.”

An Interview with Dr. Phillip Ayoub, 2017 Fellowships Mentor Award Recipient

Phillip AyoubThe Fellowships Mentor Award recognizes the efforts and critical role of a faculty member who consistently goes the extra mile to cultivate, prepare, and guide students in their applications to nationally-competitive fellowships. Through his role as an advisor and assistant professor in the Department of Politics, as well as his active outreach and involvement in student research and fellowships, Dr. Ayoub demonstrates a sincere and active interest in supporting student achievement and helping to foster a broader culture of fellowships and student success at Drexel.

Since arriving at Drexel in 2014, Dr. Ayoub has worked with the Fellowships Office to identify and support fellowships applicants through campus review committees, panels and events focused on mentoring. He has also mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students on fellowships projects, which involves advising them on research design and on how to pin down inspiring but feasible projects. I also use my international network to connect students with host-sponsors.

What is the importance of fellowships, in your opinion?

Based on my own experience, and that of my students and colleagues, fellowships open important intellectual and professional horizons for our students, alongside expanding the university’s presence and standing internationally. They do this by allowing students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world environments—often ones they are not yet closely familiar with. In doing so, fellowships can allow a student to realize a project they have developed, as well as introduce them to new experiences that challenge their existing worldviews. For students who travel to a different part of the country or globe to conduct their fellowship work, the new connections they form with people in unfamiliar contexts can help them to reevaluate their own outlook on the world. In many cases, fellowship experiences also result in life-long friendships and life-changing experiences that teach grantees a great deal about where they themselves came from themselves. There is much more I could say to solidify my strong feeling that fellowships offer one of the most valuable intellectual experiences in an academic trajectory.

Why did you choose to become involved with the Fellowships Office at Drexel?

It made sense considering how much I have profited from fellowships myself. My work in comparative and international politics required several stints abroad and without the external funding of fellowships (like the Fulbright Schuman Fellowship and the Humboldt Chancellor Fellowship) it would not have been possible. So the DFO and the Office of Global Engagement and Education Abroad are doing the important work that I naturally I want to support, because I see fellowships and foreign experiences as fundamentally important for our students education.

Furthermore, I wanted to be particularly involved with the Drexel Fellowships Office because I was impressed with the extensive work and support the office provides for my students. Compared to my former institutions, I have yet to see such dedication and hand-on mentorship offered to students elsewhere. This support certainly helps to explain the impressive performance of our students in winning competitive national and international fellowships. I am very proud to be part of an institution with an office like this, and I want to do everything I can to support the important work that does to open doors for our students and faculty.

Why do you sit on campus review committees and work with students in other fields? What do you get out of it?

I love reading about the exciting projects Drexel students are working on. It keeps me in touch with the interests of our students from across campus and helps me think outside of the box in relation to my own field’s work. At the same time, I think my input from political science, a field that has a lot to say about innovative and mix-method research designs, also allows me to offer helpful advice to students on how to develop their projects in a compelling way, especially for the interdisciplinary committees that will be reviewing them.

What else do you do to encourage and support students applying for fellowships?

I assign research design assignments in several of my upper level classes. Often I have students write out versions of their research designs following the guidelines of a specific grant application process. After they have jumped through the hoops of as an exercise, it makes the actual process of starting a grant application feel less daunting. Next, I invite representatives of the DFO to come speak to my classes about the various opportunities that exist for them. Many times my students say that it was the first time they had heard of or learned about certain fellowships available to them, putting these opportunities on their radar. I have also made a habit of providing the names of my outstanding students to the DFO at the end of each quarter, especially ones developing projects that would be well served with a fellowship experience. 

Why is it important for faculty to be involved with fellowships at Drexel?

Yes, I do. This form of involvement is rewarding for faculty for several reasons, not least for the many benefits to students provided above. Additionally, faculty involvement and encouragement elevates our student’s potential outside the classroom. One thing I love about my Drexel students is that they are less entitled than some of students I have worked with on other campuses. That said, a downside of this humility is that they do not always naturally see themselves as likely candidates for competitive fellowship competitions—even when they absolutely are. This is a serious misperception on their part, and one we can help to dispel by support them and showing them that Drexel students are performing outstandingly well in fellowship competitions. Even if they are unsuccessful, I think applying is a valuable learning experience, which is why I think faculty should see part of their mission as encouraging top students to apply for external fellowships.

What would you say to a student who didn’t receive a fellowship to encourage him/her to apply again or apply for something different?

The experience itself is so valuable. It can be used to apply for another grant, or for graduate school applications. Articulating an idea for an interdisciplinary audience is good practice in general, and many times failed applications will be successful (with revision) down the road.

Dr. Phillip Ayoub is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics, who specializes in transnational social movements and LGBT rights in international politics. His research interests concentrate on international relations and comparative politics, with a focus on marginalized populations, transnational politics, norm diffusion and the study of social movements. His recent book, When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility (Cambridge University Press, 2016), addresses the domestic conditions under which international norms governing LGBT rights are most likely to spread. He received a PhD from the Department of Government at Cornell University. Dr. Ayoub’s publications have appeared in Comparative Political Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, Mobilization, the European Political Science Review, the Journal of Human Rights, Critique Internationale and Perspectives on Europe. He has received various grants and fellowships, including a Fulbright-Schuman Student Fellowship for the European Union, an Alexander von Humboldt Chancellor Fellowship, a Cornell Sage Fellowship, a Mellon Writing Fellowship, three FLAS Fellowships and a Max Weber Postdoctoral Prize Fellowship.