By: Yitzchak Fried  | 

Yeshiva University to Begin Fellowship Mentorship Program

The Dean’s office has announced an exciting new mentorship program, designed to help students apply to fellowships abroad. The program will target strong students in sophomore and junior year, with the aim of cultivating their awareness of academic possibilities beyond the sometimes cloistered walls of the YU campus. In a recent letter to faculty, Dean Jacobson recruited professors to identify “YU undergraduates who would be strong candidates for external fellowships”. The letter directed faculty to seek out students with a number of personal and academic qualities, including “maturity, resilience, and adaptability” and an “academic passion that can be focused and developed into a fellowship project at a particular university.”

Dean Jacobson hopes that the mentorship program will help raise students’ global consciousness, and encourage them – without compromising their Jewish values and identities – to consider themselves members of an international academic community. To this end, the program will do more than provide guidance through the fellowship application process. It will also involve programming designed to ensure that students are sufficiently culturally informed to be competitive fellowship candidates. Programming could include lectures on current events and on arts and culture, museum trips, movie viewings and other enrichment activities that would provide students with discussion material for a fellowship interview.

When asked about the program’s similarity to the existing Honors Program, Dean Jacobson stressed that the two programs would be distinct. Students need not be honors students to apply for fellowship mentoring, so long as they are strong academically and have a G.P.A of at least 3.75. Admission to the Honors Program currently depends on having achieved an SAT score of 1400, a criterion that can prove irrelevant to a student’s ability and passion for a particular discipline. For example, strong humanities students may have achieved SAT math scores that were insufficient for honors admission. Dean Jacobson has already begun reaching out to students, based on faculty recommendations, to encourage them to consider applying for a fellowship abroad. The students were told that, if they qualify, they’d join “a small cohort of YU undergraduates for whom we will be providing mentorship and support in preparing for fellowship applications.”

Qualifying for the program will involve a selection process. Interested students can fill out an application form, and, assuming that they fulfill the basic requirement of having a G.P.A. of 3.75 or above, will be asked to meet with Dean Jacobson to determine whether or not they will be “strong candidates for fellowships”. However, Dean Jacobson emphasized that despite the use of teachers to identify strong potential candidates for this coming year, applicants do not need a teacher recommendation.  

Because the program is in its infancy, it will target a limited set of fellowships that support post-grad study abroad, as well as a few that fund students’ tuition while they are still in college. These include the Fulbright scholarship, which provides for students to study in institutions across the world, as well as the Marshall (for study in the UK), Mitchell (for study in Ireland) and the Gates and Rhodes (for study in Cambridge and Oxford respectively). These fellowships are all highly selective, but Dean Jacobson believes that YU students have what it takes to compete. Even for students who are not successful in winning fellowships, Dean Jacobson thinks that the preparatory experience will be enriching. Imagining a student who pursued law school after not managing to win a fellowship, Jacobson said that such a student would nonetheless almost certainly be “a stronger, more interesting law school applicant and a lawyer with a broader point of view.”  

The foundations of the program were laid by the late Dr. Norman Adler, who had tackled the project of identifying and mentoring students for external fellowships almost entirely on his own. Dean Jacobson expressed gratitude to Dr. Adler, while emphasizing that the new mentorship program will be more developed. “I want to thank the late Norman Adler, who really got this started. We’ll be using the foundations that he laid, and taking it to the next level.” The updated program will rely on a number of faculty mentors who are themselves recipients of at least some of the external fellowships targeted by the program. Mentors will be able to draw on their personal experience to guide students through fellowship applications. The program will also have an annual timeline for students going through the fellowship application process, which will be visible on the web.

Above and beyond the particular students it benefits, the Dean’s office hopes that the mentorship program, by raising the profile of external fellowships on campus, will make all students more aware of the larger academic world. Asked how she felt about encouraging students to submit to intercollegiate undergraduate journals, Dean Jacobson said that she’d love for the mentorship program to be a springboard for other student participation in the broader academic community. (Journals that accept undergraduate submissions include The American Journal for Undergraduate Research, The Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, The Columbia Undergraduate Journal of History, Foundations and The Yale Historical Review, to name a few).