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Marshall's Scholarship Application Help Needed!

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Hey everyone! 

Currently answering all of the essay questions for the Marshall's Scholarship and most of my answers have been through two or three drafts already. Programs of choice - Anthropology of Ethnicity, Nationalism and Identity – University of Kent and Anthropology of International Development and Humanitarian Assistance – Brunel University. I'll post the question/answer combination here, because I'm hoping to get some productive feedback. These have already gone through my professors, but I want to make sure that they are as good as they can be before I submit them. Anyway, here goes the first question/answer combination.


Personal Statement
This should be a short statement, in which candidates should describe their academic and other interests and pursuits.

With the grandchildren in a semi-circle around his feet, my grandfather launched into one of his many stories from Africa. Soon, the adults filtered in until the room was filled with my entire family. As he finished his tale about an encounter he had as a child with a famous witch doctor in Swaziland, there was a chorus from the crowd for another. With several generations of stories to choose from and a lifetime living in a world that values oral traditions, my grandfather did not disappoint. Thus began my introduction into world history and foreign cultures. When I was not listening to stories about Africa, tales from Israel also abounded. Although they had been in the United States for several decades, my paternal grandparents’ house had a generous sprinkling of Israeli artifacts from their thirty years in Israel. The shofar, the Passover dish, and paintings of the roads in Jerusalem added validity to the tales from Israel that also sprinkled my childhood. Little did I know then that the stories of witch doctors, rabbis, and religions that I heard in my youth would spark a lifelong interest in history, anthropology, and international relations.

My undergraduate experience was one of intense academic pursuit combined with extensive extracurricular activities. When I wasn’t working on homework for my honors and history classes, I could be found captaining an intramural volleyball team, volunteering 20-30 hours a week at local non-profit organizations, or training horses at my university’s stable. Originally, my goal was to graduate and begin law school immediately after college. I planned on eventually become an international human rights lawyer. I knew that I wanted to study abroad to expand my educational experience. My academic advisor, Dr. Robert Lively, knew of my ambitions and suggested that I challenge myself by studying in Vienna, Austria. I agreed and soon after I began my semester at Universität Wien. Little did I know that living in Europe for four months would not only provide valuable life experiences in a different culture, but would ignite a change in my own personal career plans from lawyer to professor.


As I was studying German, Austrian literature, and the history of Europe, I also studied the people that I met. Unlike where I grew up in the American Midwest, I realized that traveling a few hours in any direction landed me in different countries with different languages and cultures. At first I was intimidated by the differences that surrounded me, but I quickly embraced the changes and began exploring this new-to-me world. I found that I loved the assortment of cultures that could be found in such a small area and traveled frequently to gain as much intercultural experience as possible. A pivotal class that was offered in Vienna, “Long Road to Auschwitz”, was concerned with the evolution Jewish-Austrian relationships, and was taught by Dr. Alfred Pfabigan. He introduced ideas concerning the development of cultures, ethnicities, and human rights. These ideas continued to influence my academic desires long after I left Austria.
Once I returned, I wanted to ensure that my learning about diverse cultures did not end when I came back to the United States. With the guidance of Drs. Heather Clemmer and Robert Lively, I chose the American Civil War as the topic for my primary research project due to the distinct subcultures available for study. My undergraduate senior thesis was a cumulation of two years of research. After studying links between the importation of slaves in colonial times to the Ku Klux Klan’s massive surge in popularity in the 1920’s, I came to the conclusion that the Civil War was not a war about slavery or states rights, but rather a battle of cultures with its origins in the beginning of North American colonialism. These different cultures had intricate social networks in which racial and gender relationships were extremely diverse depending on the region. My final research project “Racial and Gender Relationships: Pre-, During, and Post Civil War” was presented at the Southern Nazarene Undergraduate Research Symposium in early 2013. Even though my undergraduate career is over, my thirst for knowledge continues.


While working on my undergraduate degree, I was exposed to many excellent researchers. Two stand out, due to the way that they changed my perspective on history, anthropology, and the evolution of politics and cultures. Due to my personal research concerning racial relations surrounding the Civil War, “Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black experience”, which was edited by James F. Brooks, familiarized me to the general Native American culture that was influenced by the introduction of African slaves to the United States. Another book, “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America”, by David Hackett Fischer, was one of the many tomes that Dr. Lively assigned in his directed study Early American History. Fischer’s describes in great detail the daily lives of four waves of British settlers to North America. What intrigued me with his work was how Fischer traced the cultural shifts that happened during this colonial period. The emphasis that both Brooks and Fischer placed on the fluidity of cultures captured my attention in a way that few other books did.


To seek a professorship of anthropology, the need to advance my education is now a priority so that I can better teach others. Not only will I need a grasp of the variety of cultures and subcultures that can be found in the United States, but I must also thoroughly know the histories of other countries and societies. Although I enjoy academic research for its own sake, my desire is to share the knowledge that I have. Mentoring others to find the value in areas that they may have thrown aside as different and therefore unappealing is what I strive to do in my life and with my stories. I am in my infancy as an international anthropologist and a teacher, but my desire to grow, mature, and show others the richness of our world is a passion that will never die.

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Hi Traveler!


Are there any specific forms of feedback you're looking for? In general I see a few things you could tweak, but if they're off base or not what you're looking for please feel free to ignore me. :) Please keep in mind that I am not an expert at all, and don't know what the Marshall people want to see in an applicant's statement.

  • Transitional phrases like "little did I know" and "I quickly embraced changes x, y, and z" feel a bit stale here. Show, don't tell. Demonstrate the act of embracing change in your third paragraph - what did you explore? How did the exploration shift your perspective?
  • Instead of expressing your desire to seek a professorship, maybe focus on new or expanded research directions - not all graduate degrees culminate in a professorship, and they'll want to be sure that you're putting your education to good use even if you're not on a tenure track in 5 years or whatnot. There's a section where the Marshall asks for your long-term career goals; talk about being a professor there.
  • Your beginning anecdote is too long; can you shrink the bit about your grandfather's story to a single sentence, and expand instead upon how those stories and exposures shaped YOU? Like, mention the witch doctor - then tell us what the witch doctor represents for you. Mention the Israeli context - and then tell us how YOU were affected by that context. In essence, begin to construct a sense of your personhood for the reader; right now I feel like the beginning paragraph says a lot about your family, but not a lot about you.
  • Is there a reason you list so many influential texts, classes, and professors by name/title? In general I have been advised to leave out names unless they're, say, the title of my own research, or a very influential person I hope to work with. If I were you I would err on the side of "a dear mentor" instead of "Dr. So-and-so." I would also talk more about your work, and less about the books you've read.

Anyway, I hope these bits of feedback are helpful - and please feel free to discard what isn't! I submitted my Marshall application last night, so I know the process is nerve-wracking; I don't mean to undermine your confidence in any way. Your focus on international relationships is right up their alley! Best of luck. :)

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