The Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarship Engagement (CUSE) a campus resource gem. We shared our original digs in Brownson Hall for many years with them. But even as our programs changed homes, CUSE to Bond Hall and AnBryce to Haggar Hall, our relationship strengthened, thanks to a shared commitment of assisting scholars with acquiring valuable tools to enrich their time at the University and beyond. AnBryce constantly seeks out experts in their fields to provide support and networks for our scholars. CUSE is one such resource, with its commitment to scholarly discernment as it relates to experiential learning, research planning and funding, and application support for national and international fellowships. Recently, we sat down with Elise Rudt, National Fellows Coordinator at CUSE, to talk about our long-standing partnership.
When AnBryce appointed new Faculty Directors in the summer of 2019, they pledged to broaden and strengthen our network of campus resources. To begin they explored the work of our most robust partners. CUSE was in that top level of campus engagement thanks to the work of Elise Rudt and CUSE Director, Dr. JeffreyThibert. Elise shares that she watched Jeff give a talk at the AnBryce Scholars’ Orientation on her first day in the office 5 years ago. “It’s incredible to think so many of the students I ended up working with were in that room.” When asked what sets our scholars apart from others she notes, “In one word, empathy. If they care about something, they care deeply.” She adds that they make great partners in the time consuming, intense application processes, “The ideal applicant needs to take advice. They have to be open for a lot of conversations and lots of drafting. They have to put in the work. The best relationships are symbiotic, because I give them advice, but they give me a reason to fight for them through the process and beyond. Once I know how awesome they are, if the fellowship doesn’t happen, I am the first person brainstorming other ideas and paths for them.”
Every year before Elise meets with scholars, she sits down with Amanda Hammond, AnBryce’s Program Manager, to get updates on our scholars. Elise says that early in her tenure, when she sought out campus partners to work with directly, Amanda stood out immediately for how deeply she knew the scholars. “She didn’t just know their ‘type’ or major, she knew their dreams.” That’s gold for a partner like Elise, who can then imagine opportunities for specific scholars. Not only does she get yearly updates from Amanda, but she also meets with first year students as a group and then again individually should they apply for Gilman Scholarships to study abroad. Currently, she is working with our scholars on Fulbright, Truman, and Boren Fellowship applications. All of these touch points create a greater comfort with CUSE, but more importantly, “AnBryce Scholars automatically think, ‘I’m supposed to work with CUSE.’ That’s huge.” Elise shares that working with AnBryce scholars not only deepened her connection to the program, but widened her reach on campus. “AnBryce scholars are leading so many organizations: Questbridge, Africana Studies, SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), Personal Finance clubs, among others. These students are in everything; and they tell others about ways they can succeed also. Nothing is hoarded.”
Elise recalls a few important moments for gaining a foothold within the AnBryce Scholars program. As a freshman, Teayanna Leytham ‘21 was awarded a US-UK Fulbright Commission Summer Institute Program Grant in Scotland. That same year, several sophomores scholars won Gilman Scholarships to study Abroad. The next year, Zoe Usowski ‘19 became our first AnBryce Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) winner. “I had people coming into my office wanting to win what Teayanna won, what Jahlecia (Gregory ‘20) and Mando (Sanchez ‘20) won. Scholars wondered what would make them candidates for Fulbright.” This year two scholars are competing for Fulbright ETAs, along with a host of other awards and fellowships. “AnBryce Scholars are applying for all of the awards and they are really competitive.” Elise stops for a moment to reflect on this year’s pool, “They all have humility and confidence that go hand-in-hand. They are down to earth but also have what it takes to go after these spots.”
Elise also points out that it’s amazing to see the shift from anxiety about applying for national and international fellowships to a confidence that the scholars are the exact type of candidate the programs are seeking, "Fellowships are looking for development, they are looking to help introduce you to something new.” She adds that they are also a great equalizer. “You can teach the fundamentals, but you cannot teach someone how to be competitive or how to care deeply.” Often students come to CUSE and have to relearn things like how to write succinctly or control a narrative. “I tell the students it’s kind of like mind control. You get to really focus on what is important to you and that is what the committee will know about you. The students that get that and make it personal really shine.”
We ended our talk with a final reflection on why these deeper partnerships among campus organizations are important. Often, scholarships and fellowships have application dates and deadlines that in no way line up with the academic calendar. It’s one reason why Elise has prioritized making an accessible online learning module that renders the application process more accessible and equitable. Students know exactly what is due when and when to focus on each piece. “Unfortunately, if you wait until you need something, it is sometimes too late to apply.” Partnerships like ours ensure that scholars have time to think ahead and think big. “When I met with the AnBryce Scholars this fall, I had them write a newspaper article announcing their college awards and accomplishments. At first they were kind of shy about it, but then Lala (Petty ‘23) and Aiden (Robertson ‘24) got so into it. I totally have plans for them now.”