Fulbright award aids Mount Holyoke alum with Ph.D. dissertation

Anna Lee reflects on her decision to apply for a Fulbright, the challenges brought on by Covid, and her advice for future applicants.

A Ph.D. student at McGill University’s School of Religious Studies with a concentration in gender and women’s studies, Anna Lee White ’15 is writing a dissertation focused on the history of early modern Hindu devotional literature from North India. Fulbright allows her to gain experience and conduct research in her country of focus.

Why choose a fellowship to aid in your doctoral dissertation?

A fellowship offers support for independent research and language study and a cohort of other students with whom to build relationships and collaborate. I’m expecting to build up my Hindi skills and make lots of connections with Indian scholars during my Fulbright. I’ll get to visit archives and libraries and access unpublished manuscripts, and I will be able to connect my textual studies with living traditions by visiting temples and attending festivals and religious celebrations.

How has Covid impacted your plans?

I was awarded a Fulbright for the 2021-22 academic year, but I had to reapply because it was postponed several times due to Covid. Despite the delay, I am eager to spend time in India and am grateful to Fulbright for helping to bring me closer to my career goals. I hope to pursue a career in academia, teaching South Asian religions to undergraduate students; my time in India will help my doctoral dissertation and inform my future teaching.

What advice would you give to students hoping to apply for a fellowship?

I recommend starting applications early and asking many people (professors, fellowship advisors, classmates) to read over your statement of purpose. This team will be integral throughout the application process, helping hone your materials. Patience is an essential skill to practice as you receive feedback and engage in revisions.

While it can sometimes be hard to pick something specific when your interests vary, I recommend choosing a narrow research topic — it helps to start small with a research question and expand. And continue to engage with your team! It was helpful to talk with my professors about my research proposal and get a second opinion from Fellowships at Mount Holyoke.

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