I applied to the Eisenhower Institute Undergraduate Fellowship because I wanted to gain exposure to a topic I had never studied before (the military-industrial complex for my 2019-20 cohort), and wanted to explore the possibility of pursuing a future career in politics. I figured that the more I could engage with politics during our D.C. field trips and meetings, the more I would be able to hone my passion for learning in the political sphere. While the Undergraduate Fellowship helped me with both of these learning objectives, I was happily surprised to find that the fellowship taught me so much more in my senior year than I expected.
The program is experiential in its essence, meaning that students drive the learning process. As fellows, we collaborated to organize panels and discuss topics we found interesting and relevant to the campus community. We also drove the learning process by propelling our discussions with professionals during our meetings in D.C, London, and Paris. We asked curious and open-minded questions that would be relevant to the issues at hand, but also relevant to our personal interests as young adults.
I have always admired the way that the Undergraduate Fellowship attracts individuals from across all academic disciplines. Being at a liberal arts institution, the Eisenhower Institute engages students from various backgrounds (academic or otherwise), and invites them to share their wisdom with other students or with visitors to the program. As a fellow, I was able to watch my peers who majored in disciplines from Spanish to health sciences to philosophy, bring their expertise from across the academic spectrum to facilitate rich and holistic discussions. Whether in a meeting with top economist Martin Wolf, analysts at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, or senior executives from Airbus, this diversity of thought led to wider discussions and forced us to think outside our intellectual comfort zones. In these experiences together, we worked actively and critically, collaborating as much as we could and using each other as resources.
The Undergraduate Fellows sharing dinner and camaraderie just after arriving in London.
One of my favorite memories from my Undergraduate Fellowship experience was staying up late with the other fellows in our London AirBnB and debating for three hours the issues we had discussed in our meetings that day. I know I occasionally felt intimidated or time-pressed to share my opinions with the professionals in the room during our meetings, but these nighttime debates and conversations with my peers encouraged me to dive deeper into our topics. The community aspect of Gettysburg remains strong in all EI programming, because it invites students to share thoughts and ideas without fear of ridicule, but with a promise of thoughtful critique. The fellows were not simply my peers, but became my friends through our intellectual and challenging conversations. I was surrounded by students who were equally passionate about learning from professionals as they were learning from their peers, which truly made all the difference for me in feeling comfortable in my learning environment.
The Undergraduate Fellows meeting with top pharmaceutical lobbyist Stephen J. Ubl of PhRMA.
I found my fellow students to be motivated by their intellectual curiosity and brave enough to ask difficult questions that would allow us to engage ideas completely outside our classroom conversations. As a group of near strangers at the beginning of the fall, we grew to support each other, respect one another, and share many laughs along the way. I can confidently say I grew through my experience with this program, and I owe that to Dr. Brendan Cushing-Daniels’s leadership and my wonderful peers who enriched my experience.
Meira Ruben ’20 is a Sociology major with a Political Science and Peace & Justice Studies double minor, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Check out her profile to learn more about her involvement and achievements at Gettysburg College.
The Eisenhower Institute is accepting applications for the 2020-21 Undergraduate Fellows and Fielding Fellows programs through April 6, 2020. Current Gettysburg College juniors can apply at our application center.