Burnam Fellowship aids students abroad

The Office of Fellowships here at Vassar offers a variety of unique and helpful fellowships for the members of the Vassar community. Many students on campus are unaware of the options available to them through the different fellowships funds and opportunities that are provided to students of all ages and majors.

One of the most generous fellowships available is the Burnam Summer Fellowship for sophomores and juniors.

The Burnam Summer Fellows Program was established to assistant students in 1998 by Marcia Garbus Burnam ’49 and her daughter, Beth Burnam ’77.

The program ultimately seeks to provide some lucky students with money to help them gain work experience with a non-profit or other community-based agency either in the United States or abroad. The Burnam Program wants to help enable students to appreciate difference and help broaden their perspective of the world.

Students who are accepted into the Burnam Summer Fellows Program are encouraged to choose a non-profit agency that will expose them to unique people, experiences and situations they would not otherwise be open to.

Many use the money provided to work with organizations that focus specifically on strengthening intergroup relations, eradicating bigotry and racism, bolstering urban communities and confronting complex and diverse issues that exist in worldwide communities.

The Burnam Summer Fellowship Program is unique in that it provides students with the opportunity to work in real world scenarios and learn about the process of making a difference.

Hannah Schenk ’14 was one of the seven recipients of the 2013 Burnam Summer Fellowship. She used the fellowship to explore social justice solutions in Boston, Mass., through the non-profit organization Class Action. She also worked with Alternatives for Community and Environment in Roxbury and volunteered with VSA Massachusetts.

“I sought to learn about the many different non-profits fighting for social justice in Boston, and to learn about their methodology,” stated Schenk. “I was also eager to get to know Boston’s various neighborhoods.” Each of the different organizations Schenk worked for was located in a different part of Boston and specialized in a different field of social justice.

Abby Nathanson ’14 went for a more international approach to her fellowship.

“I spent the summer in a small city in Gujarat, India, volunteering for an inter-cultural exchange and English teaching program called Learning Enterprises,” stated Nathanson.

Nathanson continued, “This was their pilot year in India, so my project was to assess community and school responses to the program and make recommendations for the following year’s program.”

Nathanson was also able to participate in the program, so she taught English every day at a primary school in a small village close to her city.

The overall experience in India was very enriching for Nathanson.

“I learned a lot of different things,” said Nathanson .

She continued,“I learned how to navigate (some parts of) Indian bureaucracy, I learned about the government education system, and I experienced a culture that was totally new to me.”

The cross-cultural communication skills she learned while in Gujarat are invaluable to Nathanson’s future plans of doing research and working abroad. She said that she would also be interested in leading similar high school and college exchange programs in the future.

Emily Norman ’14 also used her fellowship money to go abroad and work in Ghana for two months.

“I worked with an organization based in Kpando, Ghana called UNiTED, which stands for Unifying Neighbors Through Education and Development,” stated Norman.

While in Ghana, Norman worked on three main projects:

“I did wound care in the mornings where I biked around the village and cleaned the wounds of elderly community members who would not otherwise receive medical attention,” said Norman.

Norman further explained, “I also worked on a maternal health education program where I helped teach women about danger signs during childbirth and the postnatal phase. Lastly, I worked in a children’s home for HIV/AIDS orphans where I helped tutor the kids in English and helped with their homework.”

Norman credits the Burnam Fellowship with her chance to be able to do meaningful work over the summer.

Another part of the Fellowship Program is that students are encouraged to take the knowledge and experience they learned over the summer and pass it on to the members of the Vassar community.

“I have gained practical skills in outreach, development, and communication that I know will be extremely useful to me,” stated Schenk.

Schenk further explained, “I have already used what I learned this summer to bring a Class Action workshop to Vassar on September 28, which will give the campus a chance to engage in continued dialogues about classism.”

Schenk said that she hopes to provide some new information concerning classism to the students on campus as well as working to  foster an environment of more awareness concerning issues of classism.

Current sophomores and juniors can apply to the Burnam Summer Fellowship Program by going to the Office of Fellowships in Main Building or checking out their website, which has the application and all the information concerning the fellowship available.

Up to seven applicants will be chosen to receive the fellowship and to pursue either their own non-profit agenda or work in conjunction with a program for the summer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *