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Advanced Study Grant Advice

university fellowships committee

The value of these Grants is perhaps best stated by the students who have taken advantage of this opportunity and offer encouragement and advice to other students in their own words.

Comments below were made by recent Advanced Study Grant winners, before an audience of students at a University Fellowships Committee luncheon.

Advanced Study Grant for 2002

Ms. Maureen Olsen
Class of 2004

"Ethics: The Sacred Core of the Church"
To support advanced study of Christian Ethics at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Over the course of my first year at Boston College, of all the decisions I made, my decision to apply for an Advanced Study Grant was by far the most rewarding.

Last year at this time I was sitting in your place, thinking two things: Obviously the first was, "Sweet! Free lunch!" My second thought was, "Is this some kind of a trick? Why would BC want to give me money? I thought it went the other way around."

When you start out at BC, the number and variety of opportunities at BC pretty overwhelming; at least it was for me. I didn't know what I wanted to do. PULSE, 4-Boston, UGBC, 48 Hours, ALC, ski club, Campus School, Appalachia... By January, I hadn't done a single one of those things. My resume consisted of high school activities that suddenly didn't seem to mean very much. I assure you, you don't have to have the extracurricular life of an aspiring OL to earn this grant.

Another thing I didn't do freshman year: I didn't turn down a free lunch. And when I ate that lunch, I learned about something even better than free food. Free money.

Earlier, I had heard about a summer program run by BC's Center for International Partnerships and Programs called "Contemporary Catholic Ethics in Rome and Assisi." It was a 3-week course taught at the Gregorian University in Rome- "The Greg" as I'd be calling it a few months later. Guest lecturers would speak to our class each day, and Professor Stephen Pope of the Boston College Theology department led group discussions. A research paper on any topic relevant to contemporary Catholic ethics was due in September. The program also included basic Italian language classes, a weekend in Assisi, various excursions within Rome and the surrounding area, and Wednesdays afternoons with the Sant'Egidio ecumenical community in its churches, soup kitchen and home for the elderly.

This program was, of course, not free. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The course in Rome was wonderful. The topic was fascinating, and the various professors who presented them engaging and brilliant. Professor Pope is unlike any teacher I've ever had. I could talk to you all day about how great this program was. Right now I want to emphasize a specific aspect of the trip: I didn't have to pay for it.

The Advanced Study Grant application process is somewhat demanding. It forces you to stop dreaming about how much fun you would have eating canoli outside the Pantheon and start putting your plan into a coherent proposal. It's sort of a "What I did During my Summer Vacation" essay written in the future tense.

In choosing a project that is both appealing and feasible, you have to think about what you will accomplish by doing it. You have to consider what you're doing with your time at BC, where you're going with your studies, what you want to accomplish while you're here. How will your project enrich your college experience like nothing else can? How does your project reflect your interests, your goals for the future?

I wasn't really sure either. As I went further along in the process, as I analyzed my interests, my abilities and my ambitions, I went through a few revisions of my proposal. Suddenly you're not going through the motions of fulfilling core requirements and accumulating credits, but really thinking about your direction in life, what's important for you to get out of your education, and how each thing you do to challenge yourself at BC is part of a larger pursuit.

It sounds very grandiose and pretentious to speculate about the contributions you might someday make in your field when you're only starting out in it. But it's kind of fun! And this is your chance to do just that. You are all capable students, and I'm sure you're creative enough to think of some way to spend a couple thousand dollars and learn something in the process.

If you decide to apply for a Advanced Study Grant—and I don't know why any of you wouldn't—you must make a connection with a professor. (You need at least one to nominate your and write a letter on your behalf.) I'm sure you've already been told that making yourself known to your professors is crucial to your welfare and success at college: "Go to their office hours, bug them after class, email them with questions, ask them about their pets, offer to wash their cars..."

Freshman year, I hesitated to approach my professors. I still am a bit intimidated by professors. I thought they'd laugh or roll their eyes at my questions. I never thought that my interests, what was doing or thinking about doing would not be of any interest to them.

As it turned out, it was. I was serious about going through with my plan, and my professors took me seriously. I was excited about going to Rome, and they were enthusiastic too.

This is something that is really worth pursuing. Lunch doesn't have to be the only thing that's free.