Fellowships office streamlines application process

Amanda Cuevas, right, works with a student in the Office of Fellowships, housed in the Honors College.
Amanda Cuevas, right, works with a student in the Office of Fellowships, housed in the Honors College.
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Following a trend among state universities, Grand Valley established an office dedicated to helping students find and secure national fellowships and scholarships.

The Office of Fellowships, housed in the Frederik Meijer Honors College, opened in December. Jeff Chamberlain, director of Honors College, said the lack of such an office had been hindering students' chances at competitive fellowships and scholarships.

"Before the Fellowship Office was instituted, the administration of the different fellowships was done sporadically, and different offices administered different fellowships," Chamberlain said. "Having a central office gives consistency in recruiting and advising students, helping faculty identify good candidates, and giving students the support in applying for these very competitive scholarships."

The Meijer Foundation provided needed funds to support the Office of Fellowships. New director Amanda Cuevas is busy planning spring workshops for students on how to find and prepare applications for prestigious fellowships. Cuevas had worked as a pre-professional advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Center.

"I am excited to assist students in disciplines across campus and help them pursue these prestigious opportunities," she said.

Cuevas has extensive advising experience. Prior to Grand Valley, she worked at the University of Illinois as assistant dean of Student Affairs, and with the Medical Scholars Program.

"The Ivy League universities have had fellowship offices like this for a long time, but in the past 10 years or so, state universities have stepped up to offer the same services to their students," she said. She added that national programs offering fellowships and scholarships have diversified their pool of recipients. Of all national awards now presented, only 21 percent go to students from Ivy League institutions.

Cuevas will work with faculty and staff members to recruit and identify students to apply for these awards. "We want to provide access to these nationally competitive award opportunities to as many GVSU students as possible, and as early as possible," she said.

From her past experiences, Cuevas said she knows the outcome of applications, whether successful or not, is not the most critical part of the process.

"Sometimes the journey is more important than the outcome," she said. "When students are putting together their personal statements, or their research and project proposals, they will recognize they need more for their application — more volunteer work, more classes — and that will take them in a different direction. "It's fun to watch students evolve."

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