University News

Senior awarded Luce Scholarship

Evan Silver ’16 to live in Asia for a year, learn new language, observe Eastern theater traditions

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2016

This February, Evan Silver ’16 was chosen from a pool of 162 nominees and 45 finalists as one of 18 Luce Scholars.

The Luce Scholars Program every year seeks to recognize potential leaders who have an interest in Asian culture but no extensive exposure to it, barring those who study disciplines relating to Asia or who have lived or studied there from being named as one of the organization’s scholars. The program provides stipends, intensive language training and the opportunity to travel abroad for a year.

Silver, who studies literary arts and playwriting, was interested in the Luce Scholarship in particular because of its openness. “It was more about having a meaningful cultural experience than about making some kind of career stepping stone,” Silver said. “There are some unbelievably rich performance traditions all throughout Asia, so this fellowship kind of screamed out at me as a unique opportunity to broaden my horizons — to try something different.”

The process to receive the fellowship is multi-tiered, starting with an internal university application. The university then nominates students to go on to the national competition, where they undergo several rounds of interviews. Finalists are called back for a final stage of interviewing, which Silver referred to as “a wild process.”

“There were six interviews in one day, with fascinating, interesting people on a panel,” Silver said. At the finalist stage, Silver also had the chance to meet fellow applicants, many of whom he found extremely impressive. “Everyone I spoke to had a plan to change the world, except for me,” Silver said. But come February, Silver was notified that he had been chosen to be part of the Luce Scholars class of 2016-2017.

The news was surprising and exciting to Silver, who decided to apply earlier this year after considering several other fellowships. “I really didn’t think I was going to get it,” Silver said. “I’m super thrilled, and I feel so lucky.”

His mom also expressed her support, posting a status on Facebook when she heard the news. “She congratulated me on finding a way to be self-unemployed,” Silver said. “‘Self-unemployed — with pizzazz.’”

What set Silver apart may have been his humility and awareness of the world around him, said Associate Dean of the College for Fellowships Linda Dunleavy. She noted Silver’s openness and genuine intentions as qualities that made him a particularly outstanding applicant. “Evan was pretty much a dream candidate,” Dunleavy said. “He has a clear sense of where he’s going and the kind of work he wants to do, yet he’s also genuinely open and curious and willing to take himself out of his comfort zone.”

Out of the seven to 12 applicants that the University reviews annually, it only selects two candidates to continue onto the regional and national levels.

“I think they’re just looking for someone who wants to put themselves out there,” Silver said. Having also studied abroad in London last year, he is well-adapted to taking on new experiences. From “couch surfing” to hitchhiking to talking to strangers on the street, Silver is more than willing to rely on others and be vulnerable to his surroundings. “I like taking risks,” Silver said. “I like saying yes to the unknown. That’s a small thing that makes a huge difference.”

Silver hopes that his experiences abroad will help him expand his knowledge in theater studies and develop a broader worldview. “My artistic and performance training has been primarily Western, and that’s been rewarding and great, but I’ve been largely unexposed to Eastern traditions,” he said.

Though he does not yet know which country he will be assigned to, Silver has indicated interest in the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia. Initially, Silver considered Japan as well but cited language as a limiting factor. While Silver, who only speaks English and Spanish, would have to learn his host country’s language from scratch, he believes Javanese or Indonesian would be easier to learn than Japanese.

The Luce Foundation will provide Silver with a two-month total immersion program before departing to his assigned country.

Despite the language barrier and his limited experience with Asia, Silver is eager to see what kind of opportunities await him. “This is a really unique fellowship,” Silver said. “I would recommend it to people who want to have a new experience that will challenge them and provide new perspectives.”