Friday, March 13, 2009

Staying positive

We made it through that region -- 25 files down (that's 56 total), from which we chose 3 scholars, 2 for a second read, and 1 honorable mention. The files did get much better, though there were not any stellar ones. We found three we were really happy with as scholars, but there was not a single file that made me stand up and cheer. We had to talk about the files for awhile, but it was not as close as, say, a 6-OT thriller.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there's always an element of subjectivity each reader brings to the table. I'm forcibly reminded of that now. The Watson Fellowships were announced today, and if you read that list carefully you'll notice the lack of fellows whose institution is listed as "Grinnell." For the first time since 1997, I think. My current mood is not the best, and I keep reminding myself to read supportively.

Positive! Be supportive! I'm trying.

The disappointment of the Watson, though, is helped by being in the middle of this task. Seeing how competitive the pool is and facing the subjectivity of the decision-making process head-on reminds me that we all have great candidates. While I always like my own candidates best, there are many, many deserving students, and the case could be made for many of them to be scholars.

A few more thoughts:

I think 80% of the enviro applicants went to the Powershift conference. That's an exaggeration, but not by much. The students who listed attending Powershift as their leadership essay are not faring well, because there were a lot of applicants who went to Powershift AND do many other more impressive things.

If the earlier region we read was all engineers, this one was all urban agriculture or agriculture policy people. I don't remember ANY urban ag people two years ago -- clearly, that's an important development in the environmental field. And they all love Barbara Kingsolver.

One of the really fun parts of reading these enviro files is to get ideas that I can take back to my own campus to share with our enviro leaders. One file I read talked about an idea that would work terrifically well with a new housing option on our campus, and I took notes about it. This is, of course, part of the goal of the scholars' orientation in August -- to get all of these remarkable scholars together in the same place to share ideas and initiatives.

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