Friday, December 4, 2009

Doris Duke Fellowship Q & A

On December 3, the Bren School hosted a Q & A session with current Doris Duke fellows that included a mini-workshop in responding to fellowship prompts. Please see our previous blog post for slides from the mini-workshop presentation.
Facilitator: Corlei Prieto
Communications Mini-Workshop: Monica Bulger
Panelists: Gavin Feiger, Dana Murray, Dan Ovando, Sara Solis

A few overarching tips:
Know your audience: Conservation group that emphasizes leadership. Applications are reviewed by Bren faculty, Corlei, and outside experts.
Have a clear message: Be confident in your plans for the fellowship. Draw connections between your work experience/coursework and environmental conservation. Emphasize your leadership experience with specific examples (review Communications Tip #6 for outcome-oriented phrasing).

Here are some of the insights shared by the fellows:
--Successful applicants are active in their community, demonstrate leadership, and cultivate relationships with faculty and staff.
--When completing the application, frame what you're doing in terms of environmental conservation
--Review the Doris Duke & Woodrow Wilson websites, paying close attention to past & current fellows and current projects.
--Stress personal experience. Tell a story. Show the reviewers why, for example, you're a good leader, rather than telling them.
--Whenever possible, cite examples.
--Think beyond the fellowship: make connections among your experience and coursework that shows a unified direction.
--Highlight participation within the Bren community and leadership outside of Bren.

--Prepare for the interview. Possible questions that will be asked:
  • Why do you want this fellowship?
  • What do you know about Doris Duke?
  • Why are you different from other applicants (e.g., what makes you special?)?
  • If you receive this fellowship, what contribution would you make?
  • Respond to scenarios involving specific policies: what do you think of it? what would you do differently?
    --You do not need to be an expert in the topics, reviewers are interested in how you think through challenging questions
    --Have your basic thoughts ready -- prepare for the parts you can so that when you get a tough question, you're not already frazzled.
    --Don't be afraid to say you don't know something -- admit that it's a complex topic. Since you'll understand some of the specifics of the topic, address those. You don't need to be an expert.
    --However, know your own stuff really well. For example, if you describe field work that you did over the summer, be prepared to discuss it at length with people who are more expert in the topic.
    --Anything you put in your application is going to be fair game.
Logistical notes about interviews (you are strongly encouraged to attend Dave's Interviewing 101 during Winter quarter):
--Respond thoroughly, but be succinct (example: one student spent so much time answering the first question that the interviewers couldn't ask follow-up questions)
--Don't fidget
--Maintain eye contact
--Listen and be responsive to interviewers
--Don't worry if you don't know the answer to a question. Admit that you are not completely familiar with the topic and then apply what you do know to answer the question
--Pause briefly to collect your thoughts before responding
--Be prepared: be ready to answer any questions related to your application
--Frame what you're doing in terms of environmental conservation
--Be on time
--Most people are nervous during interviews. Be confident in your skills/experience and the contribution you can make to the Doris Duke program. You would not be at Bren and you would not make it to the interview phase if you weren't completely capable of making a contribution.

Note: E-mail the Communications Center to schedule an appointment to brainstorm, outline, and/or review your application responses.

Best wishes with your application!

--Monica Bulger

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