Whitman students prove their college's emphasis on academic excellence

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Whitman College is blessed with gifted, curious students. Every year, these emerging scholars earn generous awards for graduate study, self-directed research, teaching and public service in the United States and abroad.

Last year, 39 Whitman students and alumni received national fellowships, scholarships and grants representing 24 programs.

The college's Office of Fellowships and Grants works closely with these students - and alumni - in their application and candidacy for the nation's top fellowships, scholarships and grants.

Two years ago, Nick Gottschall, Walla Walla High School Class of 2005, Whitman Class of 2009, was one of those candidates.

It was impossible not to have Nick on our radar. He was everywhere on campus, assisting in the Dean of the Faculty's office, consulting for the Computer Lab, playing percussion in Harper Joy Theatre productions. He carried a 3.96 GPA with his mortarboard at commencement, graduating summa cum laude with honors in religion.

His immediate post-graduate plans were set. But before he ventured off to Chicago for two years to teach inner-city high schools through AmeriCorps, he and I met to look farther ahead.

We talked about many things: Eastern religion, the architectural history of Chicago, a Fulbright grant to teach abroad. Moments like these are perfect exhilarations; I am adviser and student.

In the summer of 2010, Nick went to work on a Fulbright application. Our office monitored his online application, assembled his hard-copy file and shipped all 24 pages of it, including letters of recommendation, to Fulbright central at United Nations Plaza in New York.

In April 2011 Nick learned he'd received a Fulbright English teaching assistantship to India.

Applying for fellowships and grants is not for the faint of focus. Competition for awards has never been keener.

Aaron Aguilar '12, a Ford Fellowship honorable mention this year, competed with more than 1,300 students in the country. Zach Duffy '12 was one of 40 Watson Fellowship recipients from 725 considered candidates.

Their steeplechase is our steeplechase. As The Chronicle of Higher Education points out, "Fellowship advising, once an Ivy League secret, has become a sophisticated, widespread profession."

It goes without saying these outcomes are thrilling for our students and alumni. They are also important in the overarching mission and message of the college.

Yet, the essential measure of meaning in our work is the self-examination that each applicant undertakes in the process and the awareness that comes from that exploration.

Equipped with self-reflection, these eager, committed scholars will know better who they are and what they might contribute to the larger community. Having put their critical thinking and imagination to the test, they will have a better vantage of parking was closed on both sides of the street from Orchard to Chestnut to allow more access for emergency vehicles, city officials said.

Keith Raether is director of Whitman College's Office of Fellowships and Grants.

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