by Brandon Dominique
“To enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups (African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans) at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science.”
– The official mission of the National GEM Consortium
My experience with the GEM Fellowship is a bit of a non-traditional one. As I was applying to graduate schools during my senior year of undergrad, I was sure to also make some time for applying to fellowships to fund my graduate education, including GEM. Unfortunately, although I was selected to be an Associate Fellow, I wasn’t selected to be a Full University Fellow. This would mean that my funding for living expenses would have to come from out of pocket.
So after arriving at NEU, my new mission for my first year was to reapply to the GEM Fellowship and be selected as a Full University Fellow. Even though I’d be busy with classes and research, making extra time for this goal was something that would (hopefully) pay off.
So to help myself reach this goal, I essentially made 3 changes to what I had done the year prior:
Finish the majority of the application before school begins. Because I had no research or class commitments over the summer, I decided that this was the time where the bulk of my application would get done – including revising my essay on my own, reaching out to the people I identified for Letters of Recommendation, etc. Being more organized and spending less time procrastinating was key to this goal.
Get outside opinions and advice on the essay. To help polish my essay and put it in the best condition possible, I contacted writing advisors in the Khoury College of Computer Science who were familiar with fellowship essays and began conversations about my application. This helped me in cutting out some unnecessary details from my essays and being sure that what I left in was effective at conveying what I wanted it to convey.
Once school starts, work on the application 1-2 times a week. This would mean that I needed to dedicate time to meeting with my writing advisors, and more time to make the suggested changes to my essays.
So after making these 3 changes to my application process, I reapplied to GEM in my 1st year of graduate school and was selected as a University Fellow! The stipend provided to University Fellows has allowed me to have more financial freedom in the necessities I have in life (rent, food, etc.) and meant that I didn’t have to pick up a job to support myself.
In addition to the stipend, University Fellows are paired with a partnering organization to complete at least 1 internship. I was paired with IBM Corporation, and am happy to say that I’m returning for my 3rd internship this summer. Thanks to GEM, I was able to receive this special opportunity and take full advantage of it.
To conclude, I’d like to offer one more piece of advice to students looking for a fellowship to support their graduate studies: Have a plan. Whatever fellowship you plan on applying to, be sure to dedicate the necessary time to have a solid application. Talk to people at your current school who can help with your application, do your research online on successful and unsuccessful applications, and reach out to others who have done the application before. The more you prepare for the application, the better chance you have of putting yourself in as good of a spotlight as possible.