While we get ready today to head off for spring break, many of our minds are already occupied by the ultimate escape: summer vacation. Yalies seem to compile endlessly impressive summer plans, and Yale tries to make such plans possible, with lists of varied fellowships to which students can apply for summer funding.
We are continually amazed by the breadth of fellowship offerings and the amount of money the University, its alumni, and its friends devote to ensuring we can afford our summer experiences. However, the current system of organizing and disseminating fellowship information make such opportunities less accessible, and funding for more structured internships and language study seem noticeably lacking.
The lack of centralization in the current system is problematic. As it now stands, there are a number of fellowships listed on several different Web sites, and others that are e-mailed out, often staggered throughout the winter, to students by their college masters. Yale should establish an exhaustive list of all its fellowships so students can better assess all of their options.
The scattered organization reflects the scattered nature of the fellowships themselves. Many are aimed at very narrow demographics or have so many stipulations that it seems only a handful of students qualify. We are grateful to have so many options for funding our projects and passions, and we hesitate to seem at all begrudging. Although fellowships with very narrow selection criteria sometimes fulfill their intended purposes of encouraging study in a particular, often-times under-studied, field. At the same time, sometimes it seems that the wide array of very focused fellowships available do not serve a large segment of the student body.
Many students have received substantial funds for brilliant and thoroughly original experiences — studies of obscure subjects in distant countries. But we get the impression that many fellowships value originality over all else. Students with more conventional, but no less valuable or expensive, summer plans — an unpaid internship or enrollment in a foreign university — often lose out to students with more creative plans. This is not to say such original ideas should not be funded. But there do not seem to be enough opportunities for students who want to pursue such essential experiences as internships or foreign language study abroad.
Indeed, funding of summer language study is an area desperately in need of an evaluation. While fellowships supporting travel and individual research abroad abound, there seem to be far fewer chances for those who want to enroll in a foreign institution for formal language study. The University does offer a summer waiver of income for students on financial aid, but the options shouldn’t stop there. Especially if the University is serious about its efforts to make its students global scholars and its recommendation that students be allowed to achieve language proficiency by studying abroad.
We are grateful for what we receive from our alumni, but such endowments may better serve the student population with fewer strings attached. In the capital campaign currently underway to raise money for the academic review reforms, Yale should actively seek such donors and make clear its emphasis on foreign language study, soliciting funds to be used explicitly for such endeavors. And in selecting winners of more general fellowships, selection committees should consider more conventional proposals. We love that Yale makes it possible to pursue all our crazy passions, but we wish we it made it possible to pursue our saner ones too.