Fellowship Advising Office helps students win competitive opportunities

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Courtesy of Valerie Hymas

Emanuela Gallo, News Editor

Last fall, public affairs major Osvaldo Garcia attended an event that gave an overview of fellowships in public service and civic engagement.

It was then that he discovered an opportunity that he would eventually be selected for, with the help of the Office of National and Prestigious Fellowship Advising.

This opportunity was the Public Policy International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellowship, a graduate-level preparation program for students committed to public service careers.

Garcia, the vice president of academic affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government, then met with Deputy Director Valeria Hymas. She helped him craft a successful application, including a competitive essay.

“When I first received my first draft from her, it was like my essay was all in red,” he said. “It really, really is like a process and she assists you in that process.”

The Office of National and Prestigious Fellowship Advising connects Baruch College students and alumni with relevant fellowships and helps them create competitive applications.

“The mission … is to support students in exploring opportunities for professional, academic, personal development through fellowships,” Hymas said.

Fellowships refer to different types of funded opportunities that lead students to grow specific skills. They can be based locally, within the United States or worldwide.

“These are things that are nationally competitive or even globally competitive,” she said. “If you win, that’s something that’s going to cause you to stand out … It’s an opportunity for you to add something unique to your resume.”

Students who want a fellowship must first figure out which ones are a good fit for them. Then, they can search for opportunities on the online directory, which can be organized according to academic level, field of study and location.

Like Garcia, students can also attend the several events Hymas hosts each semester. The next workshop, which is about graduate school scholarships, is on March 17.

Upcoming fellowship applications are also posted to the office’s Instagram page.

Once students find fellowships they are interested in, they can contact Hymas via email to make an appointment.

While approaching each application’s essay topic, Hymas said she helps students formulate the “narrative” they wish to present to the fellowship organization.

Additionally, Hymas helps students strategize who to ask to write letters of recommendation. She also acts as a guide to the recommenders.

“She had to check that the recommenders were following the guidelines, giving them feedback on the recommendation letters and making sure that they were [being specific],” Garcia said regarding his Truman Scholarship application, which he recently submitted.

While each fellowship has its own eligibility requirements, Hymas said that authenticity makes a student ideal for any fellowship. “Authentic students who have an authentic reason why they’re applying for something that relates to a specific goal are ideal,” she said. “After that, it’s all subjective.”

The most popular fellowship among Baruch students is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which funds study abroad. Hymas said that about 20 Baruch students apply each year and many of them win.

Freeman Awards for Study in Asia, which funds study abroad in East or Southeast Asia, is also popular, according to Hymas.

Another popular fellowship is the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. Through three paid summer internships, it helps freshmen and sophomores explore different career fields.

Even if a student isn’t ultimately awarded the fellowship, Hymas still believes the process of applying is worthwhile.

“There’s still a lot of opportunity for growth during the application process itself that could help students be more successful or get that cutting edge when they go for that next thing,” she said.

Garcia echoed these sentiments.

“Even if I don’t get [the Truman scholarship], I feel like [applying] did help me,” he said. “I realized like what are my exact career goals, what do I want to do with my career … I had to get really specific, really delve deep to what’s my why.”