So, what is this fellowship, and how do you get one?
The fellowship I received is called the Roger M. Jones Fellowship Abroad. It is open to graduating seniors from the University of Michigan College of Engineering. Roger M. Jones was a professor who taught in the CoE English department, back in the day when they had separate departments like that, redundant with the rest of UM. He died, and left a bunch of money to fund this fellowship, along with a yearly poetry prize competition (which I won in 2007, and placed in the previous two years), and, theoretically at least, funding to bring a poet in residence to the CoE semi-annually. Additionally, when his wife died she left significant property to the fund. The fellowship is generous enough to be competitive with the other options facing graduating CoE seniors.
So you want to be an RMJ fellow…
Well usually an email announcement is made in the fall about the fellowship and prizes, which 99.9% of CoE students ignore. Those who choose to apply have to get letters of recommendation (three in 2008), with one required to be from an engineering professor and one highly recommended to be from some sort of literary person. I had letters from my pseudo-uncle the late John Cameron, a professor at Oakland University, along with Ken Ludwig, my Entrepreneurship lecturer from the CoE, and also probably the best known prof from our UM English department, Ralph Williams. I also wrote a couple of essays about why I wanted to do this fellowship and my qualifications. At the time, I had no idea what school would have me, as it was definitely too late to apply anywhere good, and this almost knocked me out of the running. Obviously they want whoever wins this fellowship to go somewhere prestigious. I would recommend if you’re thinking about applying that you come up with a creative way to do that, which is what I did. I am taking Continuing Education courses at the University of Oxford. The courses are pretty awesome but you do not even need to apply to take them, just pay and show up. There are probably other, better options, but this one worked for me, and I am definitely living the Oxford experience here. You should note that the UK Student Visa requirements are pretty stringent, I probably should not really have qualified for a full student Visa but I was luckily issued one nonetheless.
If you’re a young student in the CoE, and you’re reading this and thinking you might want to win this fellowship some day, I would say you definitely must submit poetry to the RMJ poetry competition. That is an excellent first step, not to say that they would not award this fellowship to someone who had never submitted any poetry. Then I would say, make sure you have a good reference or two from some literary types, take some creative writing classes or English classes or something. If you were really smart, you would apply to Oxford, Cambridge, or another suitably prestigious school in your junior year, to do some sort of one year post-graduate program, and just don’t do it if you don’t get the funding. If you applied for this fellowship and you had already been accepted to a school like that, you would have a huge edge over everyone else applying.
Well I’m off to my Mandarin Chinese class right now. Good luck!