Cornell Fellows (page 2)

Rigorous application process

Getting a fellowship, however, is not as simple as asking for one.

First, a fellowship opportunity comes to the attention of either Holmes or Sutherland. The fellowship is then advertised on the Cornell Fellows Web site at From there, Holmes and Sutherland market the fellowships around campus, speaking with professors and students to find a Cornellian who fits the bill for that particular site.

Dimo Dimitrov ’07, for example, found his fellowship at Rockwell Collins when his advisor, Professor Tony deLaubenfels, e mailed him about the opportunity. Dimitrov had never heard of the Fellows program prior to that.

“I told him [deLaubenfels] that I wanted to do an internship, but I was not sure what and where to look for one. A few weeks later he e-mailed me an internship description for developing a Web application. It turned out that it was part of the Cornell Fellows program,” said Dimitrov.

Once Holmes and Sutherland match a student or multiple students to a fellowship site, the interested students go through a formal application process in which they submit a resume, college transcript, and a personal statement. Often an advisor or a Career Services staff member works with students on their personal statement.

From there, Sutherland, Holmes, and others on the trustee committee—including Riesen—interview the student. Sometimes the sponsor interviews the student, and usually the hosting site asks for an interview as well. If everyone’s happy with the Alumnus, Fellow match, the student gets the stipend and starts making arrangements.

During the fellowship, the student is required to make weekly reports as well as prepare a post-fellowship report explaining what they gained, learned, and how it influenced their professional and academic paths. In December and May of each year, Cornell holds a fellowship recognition event where students’ achievements are presented and recognized by faculty and peers.

Alumni involvement

One of the most interesting aspects of the young program is the opportunity for strong, personal alumni involvement with individual students. Alumni are able to sponsor individual students, often forming personal relationships with young scholars who share common interests, as John Dean ’58 did with Alyssa Borowske ’07 (see sidebar).

Alumni can sponsor individual fellows by speaking to someone in the Alumni and College Advancement Office and by making a $5,000 gift to the Fellows program. Sponsoring alumni are involved in picking and facilitating sites. They can be part of the interview process, receive weekly updates from their fellow, and participate in the end-of-the-semester ceremony honoring fellows. Often the alumni are even more involved, acting as an on-site liaison or mentor, as Riesen was.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a big supporter of experiential learning,” said Riesen. “What the Fellows program does is give students the opportunity for experiential learning.”

Because of the overwhelmingly positive responses from students and alumni, Riesen, Holmes, and Sutherland are looking to expand theprogram to include even more students every year. Riesen has set a goal of placing 50 fellows per year, which Sutherland and Holmes say would be likely to require an increase in staffing and alumni support for the program.

“I plan on increasing my support to the Fellows program,” said Riesen, adding that it was a bonus to see his donations actively adding to the education of each student he sponsored. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience.”

Other new facets of the Fellowship program are already in the works. “The new thing is the increased emphasis on international placements,” said Sutherland. The first international site is Japan this fall.

“We’re also going to expand it into more pure research, say in the sciences,” said Riesen. “They could propose a research fellowship in an area or topic that they or their professor thinks is interesting. We think that could be a great opportunity in both the social and hard sciences.”

He adds that the changes could be made in the next year or two.

Fellowships influential

In the meantime, students who’ve had their fellowships find their future influenced by the experience. Bowen, for example, made her decision to attend a Ph.D. program in genetics and statistics at Iowa State University while driving back from her Phoenix fellowship.

Roth, a year removed from her fellowship, is back at Target, this time working as a business analyst.

Dimitrov, who was hired by Rockwell at the end of his fellowship, will eventually attend graduate school once he decides what discipline he’d like to pursue.

Reykdal changed his law school plans because of his fellowship. “I enjoyed the people here and decided that I would enjoy starting in business rather than law school out of college,” he said. “I can see myself getting an M.B.A. in the future.”

Likewise, Holmes, Riesen, and Sutherland remain optimistic about the future and promise of the Cornell Fellows program.

“I wish we had this opportunity when I was a student. It’s phenomenal that we can send students to D.C., Chicago, Houston, and the Twin Cities,” said Holmes. “This is really one of the most amazing experiences we’ve been able to offer.”


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