As it enters its second year, the International Scholars Program is in an unexpected position: it has more scholarships to offer and fewer applicants vying for them.
The program, whose deadline was Oct. 5, will send 20 Brown students — six more than last year — abroad this summer for internships, public service projects and academic research.
Last year, more than 40 students applied for 10 spots, said Vasuki Nesiah, director of international affairs. Impressed by the number of promising projects, the Office of International Affairs scrambled to find the funds necessary to sponsor additional scholars. In the end, 14 students participated, traveling to sites including rural Kenya, the Pacific Coast of Mexico and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The selected students received $5,000 to cover the cost of international travel, work and living expenses, making the program one of the most generous fellowships on campus.
Students who participated last summer said they were pleased with the scholarship.
"We were a happy bunch," said Elizabeth Adler '11, who traveled last summer to Nepal to work with an NGO focused on women's health.
This year, the Office of International Affairs doubled the original budget of the project, raising the total number of fellowships to 20, Nesiah said.
But the number of applicants did not rise in accordance with the increased budget, said Hayden Reiss, project coordinator and head of logistics at the office of international affairs. In fact, the applicant pool shrunk to around 30.
Those in charge of the scholarship could not explain the decline in applicants. Feedback from the scholars who traveled abroad was positive, Nesiah said, adding that the only major change to the program is the addition of peer mentoring — in which previous recipients will be asked to offer advice and support to this year's participants.
Nesiah said she wanted to establish "some role" in this year's program for previous participants.
But with the program still in its infancy, the expectations for peer mentors remain undefined.
"It's pretty disorganized right now," Adler said, while other former scholars were unaware of the existence of the peer mentoring program.
Although Brown offers several other fellowships for international work, the International Scholars Program is unusual for its emphasis on building relationships between its participants, Nesiah said, adding that the peer mentoring program is only one example of this effort. Students who receive funding are also expected to attend monthly dinner seminars focused on relevant issues.
Steven Daniels '10, who traveled to rural Kenya to work on an engineering project, said the meetings were "really interesting."
"I was exposed to a lot of different disciplines," he said.
Adler said the seminars were not as focused as she might have liked.
"It would have been more effective to engage our individual projects a little more," she said.
The meetings' content for the coming year is likely to change, Nesiah said. "Nothing is set in stone."
The program also involves faculty mentors who advise scholars on their summer plans and help students create a capstone project when they return to Brown.
The faculty mentoring program received positive reviews from the scholars.
"We have a very good relationship," Daniels said of his mentor.
For Adler, a different element of the fellowship was what really stood out.
"There were nice free dinners at the Faculty Club," she said.