Students and alumni win prestigious scholarships and fellowships

“These are prestigious awards,” said Fellowships Coordinator Denise Gagnon. “In the last five or six years Amherst has done very well in winning these merit-based awards,” she said.

This year the College boasts one Goldwater winner, a Luce winner, a Watson winner, a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship winner and a Fulbright Scholarship winner. The College is still waiting to hear from the Fulbright Foundation concerning five other candidates.

According to Gagnon, successful applicants convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm in their personal statements, devise a unique and feasible proposal and express themselves well in the personal interview. In addition, the diversity of courses revealed in applicants’ transcripts indicates that they have excelled in a rigorous educational environment while making the most of the liberal arts experience afforded to them by the College.

Students must also demonstrate leadership. “These foundations want to know what the student is doing outside of the classroom,” Gagnon said.

The Amherst College Fellowship Committee, a rotating committee of five faculty members from different disciplines, reviews the applications, interviews the candidates and nominates a small number of these applicants to move forward into the national pool.

The College also offers its own Amherst College Fellowships. The College has awarded over $444,000 to seniors and recent graduates applying to graduate school.

Daniel Altschuler ’04

Daniel Altschuler ’04

Altschuler was awarded the Watson Fellowship, which provides a one-year grant to graduating seniors who desire to travel and engage in independent study abroad. The Watson committee rewards individuals with creative, feasible and personally significant proposals who have demonstrated their devotion to the proposed area of study, according to the fellowship Web site.

“The hardest thing about the experience was waiting three months after my interview with the Watson director to hear whether or not I’d won,” said Altschuler. “In the end, of course, I was, and am, ecstatic for receiving such a fantastic opportunity. I believe that I was successful because my project connects directly with a lot of work that I’ve done in the classroom and during the summers.”

Altschuler will travel to South Africa and Chile to conduct his independent study. “In countries where stable democracies have replaced brutal authoritarian regimes, homeless and landless communities continue to struggle for their economic rights and well-being,” he wrote in his application for the award. “I propose to conduct an oral history project amongst the homeless and landless in South Africa and Chile in order to explore their experiences during the transitions to democracy.”

Altschuler explained the necessity of setting aside enough time to complete the application. “I would say the most important thing is to possess � the willingness and eagerness to explore the world in a creative, meaningful way,” he said. “I took a lot of time last summer to conceive of my idea for this fellowship, and it took considerable effort to write a clear, concise application that demonstrated my personal connection to my project.”

Joanne Wang ’04

Joanne Wang ’04

As the recipient of a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Taiwan, Wang will assist English teachers in Taiwanese elementary schools for one academic school year.

Wang, an English major, learned about the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship while searching the Internet for fellowship opportunities. “I went to the Fulbright Web site, and noticed that they had Teaching Assistantships as well as research grants,” she said.

Wang will spend her free time in Taiwan reuniting with family members and embracing her Taiwanese culture and heritage. Wang explained that both of her parents are from Taiwan and that she hopes to spend a great deal of time with her extended family. “I have family, my grandparents, in particular, in Taiwan that I’d like to get to know better,” she said. “Also, I’d like to improve my Chinese.”

She has a great deal of teaching experience that will prepare her for work in Taiwan. “I’ve tutored for four years in Holyoke, I’ve worked at an after-school center in Madrid, I’ve taught autistic children, and I’ve taught geometry at Holyoke [High School] with English 6,” she explained. Wang is interested in public education and education reform.

Wang hopes that, overall, her experience in Taiwain will enable her to embrace a culture that is both similar to and different from the culture that she has grown up with.

Katelyn Gamson ’05

Katelyn Gamson ’05

Gamson was one of only 310 U.S. sophomore and junior undergraduates awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship this year.

The Goldwater Scholarship seeks to encourage undergraduate students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. Gamson, a chemistry major interested in both medical practice and research, is currently abroad in Spain.

According to Gamson, her principal interest lies in diabetes research. “I’m open to other fields of medical research as well, but at the moment diabetes is what I know and what interests me the most.”

She said that the College has afforded her the opportunity to reach many of her goals.  “The quality of my professors has set a very high standard for me and has inspired my excitement to learn about a wide variety of subjects,” she said.

After completing her undergraduate education, she plans to attend medical school, and she dreams of becoming a practicing physician while researching diabetes.

Gamson believes her extracurricular activities, with a particular emphasis on her work experiences both in and out of the field of science, made her a particularly appealing candidate.

“During my sophomore year I was extremely lucky to meet a biology professor who took me on as a research assistant,” she said. “I have loved this job.” Gamson has also worked as an intern for a district attorney and in a rehabilitation center for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. At the College, Gamson works as an emergency responder and serves on the board of directors for ACEMS.

Gamson plans to apply her Goldwater scholarship toward her College tuition.

Rocío Digón ’03

Rocío Digón ’03

Digón was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to the Netherlands, where she will study the Slobodan Milosevic trial in order to gain insight into the process of prosecuting heads of state before international tribunals.

“I will enroll in Leiden University’s public international law LL.M. program � and complete my master’s thesis under the supervision of Professor John Dugard, member of the International Law Commission and Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights,” Digón wrote in her Fulbright proposal.

Leiden University is located near The Hague, where the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are located. At the ICTY, Digón hopes to have the opportunity to interview judges and attorneys involved in the Milosevic trial.

She also hopes to conduct interviews with experts at the ICC concerning the precedents set during the Milosevic trial and their pertinence to ICC proceedings. “The ICTY has tried [and] is trying individuals such as Milosevic and Kadic.”

Through her interviews and research, Digón intends to answer the question, “What lessons can be drawn from [the ICTY] to draw conclusions about how heads of state should be tried?”

Digón is currently working as a legal assistant at White & Case, a law firm in Washington, D.C. “My work is focused primarily in international arbitration,” she said.

She hopes to publish her research at the conclusion of her grant term.

Daniel Schar ’96

Daniel Schar ’96

The Luce Scholarship provides scholars who have expressed an interest in an Asian country but have little knowledge or experience to study in that country for a year.

According to Schar, while he is in Asia he will “address issues at the intersect of human and animal health, particularly as they relate to rural, agrarian communities.”

Schar has an impressive resume and a great deal of animal experience. Schar earned his veterinary doctoral degree (VMD) from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. He completed an internship in large animal medicine and surgery at the University of Minnesota in 2003 and is currently in equine private practice in Oregon.

Schar has ridden horses competitively since he was 14 years old. His extensive experience with horses and other animals has strengthened his commitment to the practice of veterinary medicine.

“I’m looking forward to gaining the perspective of my Asian colleagues, helping shape policy, and thinking about maintenance of culture and diversity in an increasingly global environment,” he said regarding his upcoming trip.

“Identify the issues you feel are important. Embrace your passion,” he recommends. “Think broadly. Amherst has prepared you well.”