I have spent the last several days at the 7th Biennial Conference of the National Association of Fellowship Advisors. These are the folks who advise students applying for major awards like the Marshall, Udall, Rhodes, Gates Cambridge, Mitchell, Fulbright, etc.
The partner universities of the Marshall Scholarship program are invited to NAFA; this year, the University of East Anglia sent me and Kurt Berning (our current Fulbright Scholar at UEA) with a proposal for the conference. We came to discuss high-profile scholars at lesser-known universities – the “Noxbridges”, as Kurt dubbed them.
We are the only current Scholars here, though a good number of the advisors are former Scholars. Students generally don’t attend, so we’ve had some interesting conversations (and been assumed to be young advisors fairly often). More than anything, though, it has been a lot of fun seeing this side of the process I went through. Applying for major scholarships is a really life-changing process in and of itself, completely independent of actually winning or not the awards. The (generally multiple) personal statements “force” really busy students to take a breath and think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. The process is a chance to reflect on goals and aspirations and how your life comes together – why working in the soup kitchen, “Lord of the Rings”, and water security are related and all form a part of you and why you’re the professional you are. I’m a big advocate for these, so it’s been really great to see, engage, and hopefully encourage this.