SG proposes creation of National Fellowships Office to mentor diverse candidates for prestigious scholarships

Emily O'Toole

Assembly Resolution 18 would create an Office of National Fellowships on campus to recruit students to apply for competitive fellowships and put UT on par with other major research institutions.

Governmental affairs chair Charlie Bonner, who authored and sponsored AR 18, said the Office of National Fellowships would mentor students in the rigorous application process for national fellowships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Mitchell and Gates
Cambridge scholarships.

“There are all these insider tricks that you don’t really know as a student who’s just trying to do it on their own,” said Bonner, a Plan II senior. “A lot of applications have very different definitions of the same word … They have a specific definition that you don’t know unless someone tells you.”

The office will recruit a more diverse group of students to get involved in those fellowships, Bonner said.

“I think we could get something that’s a lot more indicative of our student body,” Bonner said.

The office wouldn’t only benefit the students who are pursuing these scholarships but would be beneficial for the entire UT community, Bonner said.

“It reflects really highly upon the entire student body when we get these awards for our students,” Bonner said. “It helps bring in research money for the future … This isn’t just something that helps the top-tier students that are getting the award.”

Other major research universities already have an office like this, Bonner said. These universities include Florida State University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of South Carolina and Northwestern University.

The creation of the Office of National Fellowships was a student-led project that began three years ago, Bonner said, but was dropped during the transition from former president Bill Powers to President Gregory Fenves.

“We’re hoping to build upon the work they’ve already done,” Bonner said.

Other members of Student Government, or SG, were on board for the office’s creation, and AR 18 was referred to the Academic Affairs Committee.

“I love the idea,” said SG vice president Micky Wolf, Plan II and business honors senior. “To not be able to have people at least know about the resources that exist and know about how they can … put themselves in the best position to get these types of scholarships really hurts the University.”

The project is estimated to cost $300,000 to $350,000 per year for two full-time employees and a possible stipend for a third student employee, Bonner said.

“I saw (the) bulleted proposal … and it was super awesome,” said Vivianne Tu, McCombs representative and management and business honors junior.

There would also be funds for conference travel, which would partially rely on fundraising and an endowment, Bonner said.