CC Students Extend Their Experience with Fellowship, Grant Opportunities

Roy Jo Sartin representing CC in Washington D.C. at a dinner recognizing the top producing institutions.
Roy Jo Sartin representing CC in Washington D.C. at a dinner recognizing the top producing institutions.

Surely, nearly every student who has passed through CC has fantasized about winning a post-undergrad scholarship. Thousands of dollars. Plane tickets to countries never before seen. The proof, made tangible by money and an award, that your next steps in life are good ones.

Colorado College was recognized as a Top Producing Fulbright Institution on February 21 of this year — for the second time in three years.  The award was accepted by Colorado College’s Writing Center Specialist Roy Jo Sartin. The Fulbright, her specialty, is a grant that sends winners to live and work in a host country — an experience promising cultural exchange and personal growth.

There are three key reasons Sartin believes CC is a top producing institution.

The first reason is that CC students have incredible, unique experiences. Students are on the rigorous but rewarding Block Plan, where they have access to study abroad programs (almost 75% of CC students study abroad before graduating!), and can find adventure by looking west to the Rocky Mountains, located right on the doorstep of Colorado Springs. Sartin feels that at CC, students are simply exposed to many new experiences — and this leads to great applications.

“And, the students that come here are openminded and curious about the world,” Sartin says with a smile. The opportunities are here, but the students have to want to take them. And Sartin feels that this unique school attracts a unique type of student.

Finally, Sartin describes a connectedness among the people on campus — when students have an idea, staff members know where to direct them to bring it to fruition. “If a student comes in, we know where to send them,” she says.

Matt Liston ’13 reached out to Sartin a few years after graduating to see if a Fulbright was still a possibility for him; he wanted to travel to Jordan and relearn Arabic.

He says Sartin’s feedback throughout the application process made his essay “pop” — “She’s the bomb!” With Sartin’s help, Liston won the Fulbright, and went to Jordan in 2016.

“That’s what the key difference was, is having somebody who's really dedicated to helping people create, like, this page-long short story that is really exciting for people to read,” says Liston.

As a writing specialist, Sartin doesn’t just work with Fulbright students; she advises on any number of grants and writing projects students may have. Often, students are directed to Sartin by colleagues, as part of this connected network.

Another member of the CC scholarships “network” is Lisa Schwartz, the assistant director in Grants, Research, and Fellowships. From working directly within the excitement of these awards, she’s learned that the objective isn’t just to “win” — rather, it’s that the young adult applying goes through the work of discovering what they want their future to look like. While Sartin did lay out CC’s “winning” characteristics, as she sees them, she agrees entirely with Schwartz.

“It’s not just about ‘could I get this,’” says Schwartz. “It’s, ‘do I want this? Is this who I am?’”

This writer’s eyes widened upon hearing Schwartz's description of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship: winners get to travel the world for a year in search of the answer to a question they applied with.

Schwartz, seeing my excitement, immediately noted that a Watson would never be right for her. “Traveling by myself? Without my family? I could not do it.”

Experiential fellowships, like the Watson or Fulbright, are about going out and experiencing the world. Other fellowships are specifically intended to fund graduate school. It’s up to the student to search within themselves, and truly understand where they want to be next. Schwartz emphasizes the power in defining these goals.

“The process of putting together a fellowship application is no joke. It takes probably 80 hours, if you’re doing the right revisions and research,” says Schwartz.

Essays, volunteer hours, and high GPAs are all attainable, by simply throwing oneself into the work of the application — and this work is undoubtedly no small feat. But answering the larger questions is about stepping back. Sometimes, that can be harder to force than any class grade.

“In the process, you do learn a lot about yourself,” says Schwartz.

Maddi Schink ’23, winner of the Truman Scholarship in 2022, spent three months completing the application, and maybe three to four months prior to that “just hyping herself up” to apply. In retrospect, she says it’s possibly the most intense and rewarding application she’s ever done.

“There’s an element of being vulnerable, putting yourself out there; pouring a ton of time and energy into something that might not come to fruition,” Schink notes.

The Harry S. Truman scholarship is uniquely hallmarked by its emphasis in public service — applicants must propose a policy to solve a problem in society.

“Public service work can be brutal — and not very rewarding in all senses of the word. But it can be so personally rewarding, which is maybe the most important part to me,” says Schink.

“One thing about other Truman scholars that I’ve resonated with is this commitment to public service — and kind of knowing that we won’t make a bunch of money in our lives and being ok with that. You have a bunch of people around you providing solidarity in that.”

Schink reflects that winning the Truman has given her a sense of peace and stability, knowing that she has this network of people with this shared goal of public service. As Schwartz would say, she’d found a scholarship that fit with what she values most — which has made it a life-altering award for Schink to win.

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