By Jasmine Roth
The Minerva Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity unique to Union students. It allows post-graduates to travel abroad while serving at non-profits in partnership with Union. Ever since freshman year, we have been getting emails about the Minerva Fellowship and subsequent informational sessions to encourage us to apply. We hoist a banner above Reamer to welcome our Fellows home, and we see their faces every time we step into a Minerva House. It is one of the most prestigious opportunities within the Union community. One would think that a program dedicated to helping other people around the world and providing life-changing experiences to students would accept students in an honorable and fair way; however, the recent application extension was the opposite of that.
First of all, I would like to personally congratulate all of the Minerva Fellows who have received this fellowship so far. This article is in no way attempting to undermine your successes, but rather to critique the way in which the Minerva Fellowship committee operated in the selection process. When two students declined the position, rather than turning to the lengthy list of unsuccessful candidates, the committee reopened the application to the rest of the campus. Not only is this unprofessional, but it is unfair to all of the applicants who had been rejected.
As previously stated, the Minerva Fellowship is a big deal on campus. Therefore, anyone who was interested in applying, anyone who is passionate about going abroad to work with any of these organizations, would have worked hard on his or her application and produced it within the deadline.
Determined applicants spend their four years at Union taking classes that they think will increase their chances of receiving the fellowship and getting involved in projects that show their commitment to this kind of work. The people who already applied are the people who deserve this opportunity. In choosing to extend the deadline and accept more applicants, the Minerva Fellowship committee is sending two messages to the Union student body: the people on the wait list were not good enough and the Minerva Fellowship committee values procrastination. This is a particularly appalling message to send when the position available specifically seeks: “Someone who manages their time effectively, sets goals and works to complete tasks in a timely manner,” and, “Someone who takes initiative, is a hard worker, a creative and analytical thinker and values excellence in the quality of their work.” Wouldn’t that person have already applied to this fellowship?
As Union seniors, I would like to think we have come to know ourselves fairly well. We’ve gone through four years of self discovery and learning through the classes, programs and social activities available at Union. By this point in our lives, I think we know ourselves well enough to apply for programs that we think we will be able to handle. Of course, we cannot predict how we will react to every situation, and the unexpected can always knock us down. However, if someone wanted to challenge him- or herself by applying for the Minerva Fellowship, he or she probably knows that he or she is willing to take that challenge. If the committee were worried that the current applicants were not qualified enough, they should trust that, as Union seniors, we know what we are applying for, we know what we are risking and we know what we are prepared to undertake. If not that, at least trust that we know ourselves a little more than you could know someone in a 15- minute interview.
The committee that makes this decision is made up of students and faculty who interview applicants for roughly 15 minutes and review their application materials. There is no public information about how to become a member of this committee or what the qualifications of the committee members are. There is also no public information about how the committee makes its decisions. While I would like to believe that these are all qualified individuals who are capable of making informed decisions about the candidates, there should be more information readily available about this process.
For whatever reasons the committee decided to reopen applications, it would at least have been in their favor to communicate their reasonings to those who already applied. A lot of confusion and frustration could have been avoided if those candidates who were still crossing their fingers that someone would decline the offer were informed of what would happen in this scenario.
As someone who did not apply for the fellowship, I realize the decisions made by the Minerva Fellowship committee have no direct impact on my life. However, I believe in the Minerva Fellowship, its mission and its merit and want the program directors to know how their actions read to the student body.