Leadership transition promises continued growth for National and International Fellowships Office

Professor Ann Cahill will serve as faculty director of the office, and follows Professor Janet Myers, who has headed Elon’s fellowships initiative for the past 16 years and served as the office’s founding director.

Elon University this summer has seen a leadership transition in the Office of National and International Fellowships, with Professor of Philosophy Ann Cahill stepping into the role long held by Professor of English Janet Myers.

Professor Ann Cahill, left, has been named director of the National and International Fellowships Office, following Professor Janet Myers, right, in the role.

For the past 16 years, Myers has guided hundreds of Elon students through their applications for fellowships, including some of the most prestigious awards available to undergraduates, and along the way has created an office equipped to support these students as they pursue these academic and professional opportunities. Elon has become a top producer of recipients of the renowned Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and Elon students have been the recipients of awards including the Goldwater Scholarship, Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, the Truman Scholarship, the Mitchell Scholarship, and others. For her work guiding students in pursuit of such awards, Myers won the Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2014-15.

Cahill, who previously headed Elon’s Lumen Prize program, said she is taking on the new role eager to build upon what Myers and Sarah Krech, associate director of the Office of National and International Fellowships, have accomplished.

“I want to make sure that this incredibly meaningful process is available to as many students as possible,” Cahill said. “I have realized that helping people apply for things is one of my favorite things to do. It’s so rewarding to accompany a student through this process and to do the hard work with them so that they put their best foot forward and understand themselves in the end.”

Myers was serving as associate director of the Honors Program in 2004 when she was first tasked with launching an initiative to support high-achieving students as they applied for fellowship and scholarship opportunities. That task involved learning about the wide variety of national and international fellowships that provide financial awards to exceptional undergraduate students and recent graduates who are interested in pursuing graduate study, carrying out internships, conducting research or teaching abroad.

Myers laid a foundation that allowed a greater number of Elon students to apply for fellowships, an often detailed, complex and writing-intensive process that demands extensive preparation. Throughout the years, Myers has drawn upon her expertise in writing pedagogy and courses she has taught with strong writing components.

“So much of what we try to do is help them get their applications to tell their story,” said Myers.

Myers said she has also tried to impress upon students what they have to gain through the process of preparing and submitting an application, which often requires the student to map out future plans and priorities and then tailor that message to a specific audience. She asks them to step back, reflect upon the path they want to pursue, and then consider what it will take to get to that end goal.

“One of the things we try to keep at the forefront is the value of the process itself,” Myers said. “You’re doing this for a particular outcome, but statistically, these awards are extremely competitive. I want them to understand what they can get out of it even if they don’t win the award.”

But there have of course been many, many who do win the award, particularly awards offered through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Elon has repeatedly been named a top producer of Fulbright students, with 10 students and alumni receiving the prestigious award during the 2019-20 academic year. That year, students were also awarded the Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, the Phi Beta Kappa Key into Public Service Scholarship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Cahill becomes director of the Office of National and International Fellowships after serving for multiple years on the university’s National and International Fellowships Advisory Committee. That service by virtue of her leadership of the Lumen Prize Program offered her the opportunity to gain invaluable insights into the fellowship application process while assisting students with application review and mock interviews. Cahill said there has traditionally been a close connection between the office and the Lumen Prize Program.

A professor of philosophy who joined Elon in 1998, Cahill is a highly accomplished teacher and scholar with awards including the Lenssen Prize in 2014, the 2011 Elon University Distinguished Scholar Award and the 2011 Elon College Excellence in Scholarship Award. She is the current recipient of the Faculty Research and Development full-year full-pay sabbatical, and the author of three books and another forthcoming, as well as numerous articles, book chapters, and professional presentations.

In her new role with the fellowships office, Cahill said she will be shifting from running an internal program that serves students and the larger university community to overseeing an office that serves as bridge between Elon students and external fellowship programs. “To do this job well, I need to be as familiar as possible with these fellowships, with their particular areas of interest, with their standards, how they read applications and who reads applications,” Cahill said. “I need that knowledge to be able to effectively advise students.”

As she starts as director, Cahill said she will be relying heavily upon the expertise of Krech, saying she is thankful “to have a colleague in the office who is really serving as my mentor.

“As I build my knowledge base, it’s so comforting to know that students will have someone whose expertise is deep and broad, and who is well-versed in all these organizations,” Cahill said.

Elon has developed a process of supporting students through the fellowship application process that is very high touch, but is also very efficient, according to Cahill. She views part of her role as helping students improve certain skills such as writing and interviewing while also enabling them to gain self-awareness and self-knowledge. “That process is really deepened and nurtured by a close, one-on-one relationship with an advisor,” Cahill said.

Following the transition, Myers is returning to teaching full time in the Department of English, and plans to continue her work supporting students engaged in undergraduate research. “I am trying to take some time to think intentionally about where I want to invest energy during this next phase in my career. I am grateful knowing that I’m leaving the office in such good hands with Sarah and Ann’s news partnership,” Myers said.