Applications for the highly competitive Presidential Administrative Fellowship increased by 15 percent this year, with 74 students applying for nine spots, a University official said.
The fellowship’s logistics coordinator, Toby Davidow, said this year’s applicant pool is one of the largest groups in the history of the graduate fellowship, which was created in 1989 by former University President Steven Joel Trachtenberg. The PAF program pays for tuition and fees toward a master’s degree for the selected fellows and in return, PAFs work as administrators in various University offices.
Davidow said he believes recruitment efforts and the program’s prestige, not the lure of free tuition, prompted more students to apply.
“I think the increase in interest is due to the reputation of the PAF program, as well as the amount of recruitment that was done this year to find qualified PAF applicants,” Davidow said.
Throughout the fall, recruitment teams organized five information sessions and used posters and e-mails to encourage more students to apply.
“Through their own motivation and networking, [the current PAFs] have personally done an exceptional job campus-wide reaching out to current GW seniors to encourage them to apply and mentoring them through the application process,” said Peter Konwerski, the program’s adviser.
Konwerski, also an associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the growth and quality of the graduate programs at GW has also influenced the increase.
“The GW graduate community is one that has grown in stature and prestige over the past years and the number of students seeking to obtain a GW degree is even more pronounced than it has been at any other time in our history,” Konwerski said.
Current PAF and recruitment leader Chris Diaz said his team tried to meet with many interested students before the application was due on Nov. 20.
“We really made it our goal to have as much face-to-face contact as possible with our applicants so that they could get the right information about the entire application process, ” Diaz said.
The application process is lengthy, with two rounds of interviews, timed essay writing and various brainstorming exercises. The first round of interviews occurs before finals and the second round is in the spring.
“The eight or so members of the selection committee will ask you question after question and before you realize it 45 minutes are up and you probably won’t remember what you said, but you hope that it, at least, made sense,” he said.
During the selection process, the committee looks for candidates that are committed to GW and the fellowship program.
“With the PAF position being such a tremendous leadership, service and ambassadorial opportunity to both the student and the university, the selection committee really wants to get to know each applicant well,” Davidow said. “Approximately half of our current PAFs immersed themselves in activities outside of major organizations prior to applying for PAF.”
Diaz said being part of Colonial Cabinet, a housing programs staffer, or in the Student Association is not a determining factor in the selection process, even though many former cabinet and SA members have been selected for the program. Diaz conducted an informal poll during one of the PAF meetings and found that only about half of the members were “fourth-floor students,” a nickname given to students who already work on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center where the SA and other organizations have their offices.
“There isn’t one or two things that you need to be a PAF, it’s how you present yourself,” he said.
Current applicant Patrick Hanley said he feels that the rigorous process is necessary for selecting the best applicants.
“Of course I am anxious about how my application will be received, but I am confident that the PAF selection committee will select PAFs that jive with the administration as well as amongst one another,” Hanley said.
Another applicant, Suzanne Haggerty, said she is nervous for the process but took many steps to ensure she submitted a competitive application.
“I spent a decent amount of time going over my placements and essay. I am extremely nervous for the process because there are a ton of well-deserving applicants. I spent the last few weeks preparing by going over interview questions, talking with PAF members and having the career center review my resume,” Haggerty said.
Haggetry is a member of the women’s rugby team and Hanley served in the Greek-letter community and Residence Hall Association.
Dec. 3, 2009
The article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Due to an editing error, the article used a male pronoun when referring to Toby Davidow. Davidow is female.