Fellowship program to alums: “forge ahead”

This year, 14 alum scholars, researchers and writers have been supported by Alumnae Fellowship grants.

By Kevin McCaffrey

Mount Holyoke College’s commitment to supporting the successful scholarship and career achievements of its students does not end with graduation.

Through the Alumnae Association’s Alumnae Fellowships program, graduates are supported each year in conducting research, continuing their studies or embarking on projects in areas spanning a spectrum as broad as the wide-ranging interests of the community.

In fact, this year, 14 alum scholars, researchers and writers have been supported by grants for projects ranging from studying the effects of war on Syrian women and undertaking a Master of Science thesis in environmental archaeology to completing a training program in chemotherapy.

Over the past 10 years, 187 fellows have been supported with funds totaling nearly $930,000, according to Diane Stanton, coordinator of the fellowship program. 

Now, a November 30 deadline is right around the corner for alums to apply for these highly selective awards, which range between $1,000 and $7,500, for the coming year.

According to Kristen Renn ’86, a member of the fellowship selection committee from 2014 through 2019, the program “demonstrates the Alumnae Association’s commitment to supporting Mount Holyoke alumnae in their scholarly and academic pursuits after graduation – sometimes long after graduation,” she said. “The projects we were able to fund during my time on the committee ranged from supporting medical, law or nursing school tuition for alums committed to returning to serve their communities, to cutting edge research projects being done by alums pursuing graduate school, to artistic and creative endeavors.

“Many applicants had projects that were designed to improve their communities, which seems very much at the heart of what Mary Lyon intended when she founded Mount Holyoke. And the number of international projects spoke to the global impact of Mount Holyoke alums in the world.”

“The fellowship has not only provided me with much-needed financial support for my reporting,” said Shoshana Walter ’07, an investigative journalist, a Pulitzer prize finalist and a recent fellowship recipient. “It's like a hug and blessing from my Mount Holyoke community, urging me to forge ahead during these dark times.”

Walter’s current project, building off work she and colleagues have done at Reveal, a project of The Center for Investigative Reporting, is a book for Simon and Schuster detailing the failure of America’s multibillion-dollar addiction treatment industry, which, she had found, is not only often ineffective, but frequently compels clients to “work for free in the name of their rehabilitation.” 

Made possible by the generosity of alum donors, the nine alumnae fellowships are: the 1905 Fellowship, the Bardwell Memorial Fellowship, the Dr. Mary P. Dole Medical Fellowship, the Frances Mary Hazen Fellowship, the Hannum-Warner Travel Fellowship, the Lyon’s Pride Fellowship, the Mary E. Woolley Fellowship, the Rachel Brown Fellowship, and the Richard A. Johnson Prize.

A number of the fellowships are targeted to different interests, or to alums from certain fields or more recent classes. For example, the Dole Medical Fellowship aims to support doctors in medical research, while the Hannum-Warner Travel Fellowship supports travel, especially in Asia. The Frances Mary Hazen Fellowship targets those studying classical literature and the Johnson Fellowship aims to support secondary school teachers. 

Others are more, or completely, open-ended in terms of criteria. The most prestigious of the fellowships, according to the Alumnae Association, is the Mary E. Woolley Fellowship, granted regardless of year of graduation, field of work or place of study.

The fellowships boast a long history, with the oldest, the Bardwell, established in 1898 and first awarded in 1901 to honor Elisabeth M. Bardwell, class of 1866 and director of the Mount Holyoke Observatory from 1866 to 1890. The Alumnae Association has records of recipients dating back 95 years.

For Amani Talwar ’14, a recipient of a Mary E. Woolley Fellowship this year, the grant has aided her in important work that may well help the success of college students. Talwar is a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

“In the United States, a substantial number of first-year college students are underprepared for the academic demands of postsecondary coursework,” said Talwar, whose work focuses on adults who struggle with reading comprehension. “The goal of this research project is to better understand their strengths and needs in terms of academic reading. This work will hopefully contribute to a growing body of research that can improve equity and access in higher education.”


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