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Two from BC Selected for Lilly Graduate Fellowship Program

05/31/13

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: May 31, 2013
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Sarah Messer '13 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Boston College graduates Sarah Messer ’13 and Brian Tracz ’12 have been selected to this year’s cohort of the Lilly Graduate Fellowship Program, which supports young men and women interested in becoming teacher-scholars at church-related colleges and universities in the United States.

Lilly Graduate Fellows must intend to enter a PhD, MFA, ThD or equivalent program that will lead to a teaching career in the humanities or arts at the college or university level. Fellows receive a stipend for three years and collaborate with each other, and with mentors and senior scholars, in areas of research, teaching and professional development.

A native of Milford, NH, Messer received her bachelor’s degree in history at last month’s Commencement, and will be pursuing a doctorate in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned several notable academic honors in her senior year from the College of Arts and Sciences, including the John McCarthy, SJ, Award for Best Scholar of the College thesis in the humanities, the Andrew Bunie Award for exceptional work in the history major, and the John F. Norton Award as the student best personifying the tradition of humanistic scholarship.

“I am very excited about this fellowship because it will provide me with a community of scholars outside my program who will be going on the same journey I am,” said Messer. “I look forward to having conversations about things like vocation, which I doubt I might otherwise have at the state school I am attending.”

As a BC undergraduate, her activities included the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where she co-led small group Bible study meetings, served on the executive committee of its Multi-Ethnic chapter and took part in its annual service trip to help rebuild parts of New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina.

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Brian Tracz '12 (Photo by College of Arts and Sciences)

Tracz, a native of Highland Heights, Ohio, who attended BC through the Presidential Scholars Program and graduated summa cum laude, has enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of California-San Diego, where he plans to study philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and phenomenology.

"Contrary to general opinion, I think that philosophy helps us to think less theoretically and more concretely about ourselves and our world — conceptual thinking need not be nebulous thinking,” said Tracz. “Philosophy gives us the opportunity to unearth insights that are buried below mere cultural norms, sterile traditions, and unexamined prejudices. With my Lilly colleagues, I look forward to discussing how to reach such insights in the context of the Christian intellectual tradition."

At BC, Tracz worked in the lab of Biology Professor Ken Williams and was editor-in-chief of the undergraduate research journal Elements. He also tutored at the Connors Family Learning Center and was a member of the Chamber Music Society.

"Sarah and Brian are two very talented young people who enjoyed great success at Boston College, not only in academics but in their spiritual formation," said Professor of Philosophy Patrick Byrne, the campus coordinator for the Lilly Graduate Fellowship Program. "They were clearly inspired by the kind of education Boston College has to offer, and by BC's Jesuit, Catholic mission, to think more broadly about their career interests."

Noting that eight BC graduates have been selected for the fellowship program in the past six years, Byrne said: "It's a testament to the combination of strong academics, devotion to service, and sense of mission that is the hallmark of Boston College. Students get a richer intellectual appreciation of the relationship between academic excellence and Christian faith, and are ideal candidates for the Lilly Graduate Fellowship Program."