Welcome to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at Villanova University. At Villanova, we have become a strong presence in the national fellowship competitions, once the bailiwick of Ivy League institutions. Since 1993, more than 589 Villanova students have applied for national fellowships. Of those, 156 advanced to finalist status while 82 received awards. One mission of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships is to assist our students as they make their way through the fellowship application process, a daunting task that requires developing both a sense of self-awareness and a vision of the path ahead.
You may well ask why anyone would want to undertake the process of applying for one of 32 Rhodes, 85 Truman or 90 Javits scholarships that are awarded annually. The odds don't appear to be in students' favor. In reflecting on the question of why anyone would be crazy enough to go through the fellowship application process, I am reminded of a quote, credited to Abraham Lincoln, "Good things come to those who wait ... but only what's left from those who hustle." Students who apply for national fellowships are forging ahead, hustling, as it were, on their journey to determine the direction of their own futures. This process is one that is more than just an endeavor to win scholarships; this is a process of self-discovery and vocation planning.
Shortly after taking on the role of administrator of this office, I met with a student who was interested in applying for a Truman scholarship, a prestigious scholarship awarded to students who are planning to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in public service. At our first encounter, this confident, ebullient young woman announced that she had made the decision to get organized and get busy with figuring out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. During the next few months, as the deadline rapidly approached, she suddenly found herself deconstructing all of the plans that she once believed were part of her future as she put together her personal statement and her policy proposal. At first, she believed that her heart's desire was to teach preschool children the importance of maintaining a clean, healthy environment. As the process ensued, she discovered that her real calling, one that would be potentially more far-reaching, was to develop school curricula for environmental education. Just recently she admitted to me that winning a Truman would be a golden ring, but she felt that she had already won a prize by having been through the process. I'm still smiling for her.