by Manjul Bhusal Sharma
Imagine Kenyon investing an approximate total of $235,560 for four years of room, board and tuition for your undergraduate education and then you receive a $300,000 graduate school scholarship after graduating from the hill. No imagination is necessary for Shrochis Karki ’09 from Kathmandu, Nepal. Karki won the esteemed Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship during his senior year at Kenyon, and is now using the prize for his fifth year of studies at Oxford University.
The scholarship offers $50,000 a year for up to six years of graduate school in any discipline anywhere in the world, giving it a total value of up to $300,000.
“I doubt there is any other scholarship that is so comprehensive and yet so liberating, so I was extremely excited when Kenyon nominated me to apply for the fellowship,” Karki said.
Winning such a scholarship, however, is all about starting early, and that is where Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Jane Martindell comes in. Every year Martindell’s office invites the top students of each sophomore class to Cromwell Cottage where the president, Martindell and the College’s liaisons for certain national scholarships discuss how to apply for prestigious scholarships to supplement students’ years after Kenyon.
Such opportunities include the Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater and Fulbright Scholarships among others.
All sophomores with a 3.75 GPA or above are invited to the gathering. This is the only program the Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships runs that is based on GPA. This year, the event will be held on April 14.
“This program started several years ago. The general info meetings weren’t getting many students. So, we thought if we invited them to a reception that would be better,” Martindell said.
But the general scholarship info meetings have not gone away and, in fact, Martindell claims the turnout at this year’s info sessions has been the highest ever. Martindell has organized four Common Hour sessions, which focus on two to five scholarships or fellowships per session.
A double major with honors, as well as the first non-American to be elected president of Student Council, Karki believes luck played a huge part in receiving his award.
“In terms of Kenyon’s role, I was one of two nominees from the College, and I received tremendous support throughout the application process. I remember Professors [of History] Wendy Singer and [of Political Science] Pamela Jensen, as well as [former Director of New Student Orientation and Community Programs] Erin Ciarimboli and [then] Dean [of Academic Advising and Support] Martindell supporting me very closely, and I would never have received this award without their support.”
Kenyon students receiving these prestigious fellowships help improve Kenyon’s visibility. It helps the Office of Admissions to boast about being a top-10 producer of Fulbright scholars. However, Martindell says this is not the motivation behind her work. Her motivation is simply to help students.
According to Martindell, around 30 to 50 students apply for Fulbright scholarships every year, and around 10 to 15 applications from Kenyon get forwarded to the host country in the second round. The highest total Kenyon received in a single year was 11. “We are doing pretty well compared to other colleges [of] our size,” she said.
The feedback from students who have won scholarships has been incredible. Most of them say the awards changed their lives, and that the scholarships continue to be an active part of their lives since most of these fellowships have an alumni group.
“My goal is to get many people going through the process,” Martindell said. Applying to these scholarships also allows students to practice important skills such as interviews and reviews.
To achieve her goal of encouraging more Kenyon students to apply for these scholarships, Martindell has resorted to social media. She has also gone to faculty meetings to emphasize fellowships.
The Office’s efforts have not gone in vain. Anna Bammerlin ’14 found out the second week of Spring Break that she received a position as a fellow for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellows Program for Japan Studies. This makes Bammerlin the first Kenyon student to become a Carnegie fellow.
“My advice to current students would be to pursue your passions not for the scholarships but for their own sake, and if you are true to yourself, these opportunities are bound to follow,” Karki said.