Board Helps Recruit Top-Notch Students| November 18, 2009
Recruiting the best applicants into graduate programs is a challenge faced by all academic institutions. To simply draw outstanding students in, however, is not enough. Also vital is that they receive the necessary support to focus on their research and on their development as contributors in a larger community. To ensure that William & Mary retains its ability to attract and train exceptional scholars and leaders, the Arts & Sciences Graduate Studies Advisory Board (GSAB) established special Recruitment Fellowships in 2006. The current recipients are in American Studies, Anthropology, Chemistry, Computational Operations Research, Computer Science, History, Physics, and the PsyD program.
While these fellowships offer incentives that maintain the College's competitiveness with other prestigious graduate programs, they can also make graduate study a possibility when it might otherwise not have been. Christopher Kenna, a 2008-10 Fellow in Computer Science, is a prime example of a student for whom a recruitment fellowship made all the difference. Kenna frankly says that, "Without the GSAB Fellowship, I may not have been able to attend William & Mary. The fellowship allowed me to repay some undergraduate loans which [could not] be further deferred. I would have had to seek out other employment in order to pay back these loans, missing out on the great opportunities and education here." The support of the fellowship also allowed Kenna to work with Professor Evgenia Smirni during Spring 2009, investigating the trade-off between computer system performance and power savings.
Recruitment fellowships also reward graduate students who have already overcome difficult obstacles. Ashley Janiga (Chemistry) is the first member of her family to pursue a college education and worked 20-30 hours per week while attending classes full-time at King's College, PA. Janiga plans to pursue a professional career in chemistry after completing her graduate work.
Benjamin Rislow (Physics) similarly cites the importance of the GSAB Recruitment Fellowship in helping him to focus on coursework, qualifying exams, and responsibilities as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate laboratory course. Rislow entered the W&M Department of Physics after receiving his B.A. in Physics from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2008 as well as participating in the competitive W&M physics Research Experiences for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation in the summer.
Like the College's 2008-2009 Distinguished Thesis and Dissertation Award recipients, many GSAB Recruitment Fellows are conducting research related to important, contemporary issues. Meagan Pitluck, a 2009-11 Fellow who earned her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, is one example. Her senior thesis concentrated on the mathematics of elections and social choice functions - essential research in the wake of our nation's most historic election. This first-year Master's student in W&M's Computational Operations Research program is continuing to apply mathematical techniques to real-world problems in order to identify optimal solutions that use available resources more efficiently.
While Pitluck's studies might help us to better understand the math behind President Obama's redrawing of the electoral map, the research of Elizabeth Howard (M.A./Ph.D., American Studies) and Shea Winsett (M.A./Ph.D. Anthropology) could advance our understanding of the changing politics that informed the election of the first African American Commander-in-Chief. Howard, who received her B.A. from Yale University in 2008, was a perfect fit for William & Mary given her undergraduate research on Jamestown's 400th anniversary celebration. While at the College, Howard plans to focus on memorialization and the continuing role of history and memory in defining the ways in which racial minorities are represented in American popular culture. Winsett, an Oberlin College alumna now in her second year at W&M, is working on her Master's thesis that will focus on exploring notions of Black Nationalism within the landscape in Black towns of the American southwest. Winsett plans to connect her graduate research to social activism through a better understanding of archaeological records.
Amanda Lee Keikialoha Savage and Carol Robinson are both examples of how the work of the GSAB helps to retain many of the Commonwealth's best students. Savage (Virginia Commonwealth University '08) is a Master's student in W&M's Comparative History program who is particularly interested in studying the effects of religion and environment on smaller incidents in history. Robinson (Norfolk State University '08) is a second-year student in the consortial clinical psychology doctoral program. Much of Robinson's research to date has involved studying academic performance and stress management of at-risk youths from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The work of the corporate, community, and educational leaders who serve on the A&S Graduate Studies Advisory Board enriches our graduate programs by enabling highly-qualified students to join our College community. Alumni and friends of the College can support A&S graduate students by contributing online to provide research funding, travel to professional conferences, and Recruitment Fellowships. These investments are producing our future leaders, who arrive at the College of William & Mary wanting to change the world and will leave with the skills to do so.