Friday, April 20, 2012

EUC-affiliated graduate student wins prestigious German Chancellor Fellowship for Prospective Leaders

European Union Center affiliated graduate student Reneé Gordon Holley recently won the prestigious German Chancellor Fellowship for Future Leaders. Holley, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology, is a European Union studies graduate minor, has received four FLAS fellowships from the EUC, and has worked frequently as a graduate assistant at the EU Center. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate College recently published an article about Holley's success in winning the fellowship. Check out the article below or by clicking here.

Reneé Gordon Holley, Illinois Ph.D. candidate in Musicology, has received the prestigious German Chancellor Fellowship for Future Leaders. No more than ten awards are given to fellows in the United States annually.

Awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the fellowship provides an opportunity to young leaders from a broad range of professional and academic backgrounds who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, have gained work experience and have shown outstanding leadership potential in their careers. The Foundation aims to foster future leaders who are able to act as goodwill ambassadors between Germany and their respective home countries by providing one year of support for a project of merit.

Holley’s project centers on the European Union’s (EU) Cultural Program initiative. The EU sponsors musical events with the goal of increasing a sense of shared identity among the EU member states. Holley will examine if these EU programs have the intended impact on participating arts and audience members. “I want to see if the cultural events that the EU funds actually achieve the goals of the EU cultural programs [which include] the creation of transnational identity and a sense of belongingness.”

The fellowship will allow Holley to conduct research in Germany on musical performances supported by the European Union’s (EU) Cultural Program initiative. She will be centered in Bonn, where she will have access to a variety of German cultural organizations that are key to her project, including the European Choral Association and Germany’s Cultural Contact Point, the organization that supports those interested in applying for EU cultural funds.

Holley’s project is the result of the confluence of several key experiences. Her earlier studies in German and music, and her membership in several choirs led her to a semester of undergraduate study abroad in Salzburg, Austria, and one year of coursework in musicology in Freiburg, Germany via a Fulbright Scholarship. She has also won several shorter-term fellowships which allowed her to study in Germany and continue to improve her German language skills and knowledge of German culture and institutions.

For the past year Holley has worked as a graduate assistant at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, which has led to a deepened interest in the EU, and a minor in EU studies as part of her doctoral coursework. When it came to her dissertation topic, it seemed a natural step for her to combine her love of musical performance and her interest in musicology with EU funded musical activities.

When asked what advice she might have for graduate students applying for fellowships, Holley recommends that they “do their homework” and tailor their proposal for the specific funding institution, noting that it took her two tries to develop a winning proposal. Her previous application for another fellowship did not yield results, so she talked with a couple of friends who were having more success to find out what they had done differently. She also met with Dr. Ken Vickery, director of External Fellowships in the Graduate College, who gave her advice on how to improve her proposal, and she conducted mock interviews with Dr. Rebecca Bryant, director of Career Services Office in the Graduate College, in preparation for her interview in Washington, D.C.

With the stress of the application process behind her, Holley is looking forward to her year abroad, and to one event in particular: “I am so excited that I will get to meet and have dinner with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor!”

For more information about the German Chancellor Fellowship for Future Leaders, see the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  Fellowship and career services resources for graduate students are available on the Graduate College website.

Photo by Shannon Leigh Anderson Photography


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