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New Bland Fellowship enables students to build skills while working in the community.

On a sunny Friday afternoon in October, seven recipients of The Graduate School’s Bland Professional Pathways Fellowship gathered in Gerrard Hall to present their research. Each of these doctoral students was chosen to receive funding over 10 weeks in summer 2015 to explore a non-faculty career – working at a foundation, center, government agency or other organization.

Their areas of expertise included everything from social justice in folk music to climate change, from a 4-H program in Spanish to the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for the Study of the American South, from public archaeology to the U.S. Department of Defense. The projects were as interesting as they were varied, with each snappily dressed student creating a conference-style poster and holding spirited conversations with anyone who happened to stop by.

“It’s a really great program – you find a mentor and they work with you to develop a lesson plan for yourself, which relates to your work but also helps you branch out from academia,” said Kashika Sahay, a potential fellowship applicant who is pursuing her doctorate in maternal and child health and is contemplating the program.

Nikhil Tomar, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in occupational science, conducted 10 weeks of research on mental illness at a clubhouse called Club Nova. He notes that this particular fellowship stood out to him because “you have to think hard. You have to know what’s going on on the ground for your organization. This is not just about an idea – it should benefit both you and the organization.”

Emma Calabrese, who worked with the Center for the Study of the American South and is pursuing a doctorate in English, planned events and organized a conference for her organization. “It’s great to see your work reach a wide audience, including academia and the non-academic world,” she said.

“I guess that’s what this fellowship is all about.”

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