On Saturday, Jan. 29, Taylor’s student body received an email inviting them to attend a meeting for Taylor’s new Presidential Fellows Program.
This program is getting started at Taylor, but has existed at other higher education institutions. President Michael Lindsay initially thought of the program while at Rice University in Houston, and brought it to life during his time at Gordon College.
As a test run for the program last fall, Taylor administration reached out to a select group of students picked by faculty to apply for the program. Ultimately, four students were selected: juniors Sawyer Watterson and Mariah Hurst and seniors Noah Huseman and Ela Alvarado.
This year, the application opened to any rising juniors or seniors who are in good academic standing with a GPA of 2.5-plus and could serve both semesters of the next school year.
After the success of this year’s fellows, this program is looking to accept nine students for next year.
When he was first forming the program at Gordon, Lindsay looked toward the model set forth in the White House Fellowship program. Because the program has been running since the ’60s, Lindsay was able to track the careers of accepted and denied applicants to see that the program really did make a difference.
Lindsay found the White House Fellowship program to be unique in how it placed interns in important offices, sometimes working directly under officials. The interns were able to interact directly with the top leadership in the U.S. government which was something Lindsay made a point of imitating when he designed the program for higher education.
“32% of (White House Fellows) went on to hold senior leadership positions in their chosen field,” said Lindsay. “If you compare that with the control group, people who were finalists but not selected, it was 12% of them.”
Although the program’s inspiration pulls from politics, Lindsay designed the Presidential Fellows program for students to work on projects with senior faculty and administration on campus. This may include minor office work, but can also involve answering the president’s emails or running his social media.
“Part of the learning experience in this program is realizing that whether it's doing some of the smaller tasks like taking a package somewhere, sealing envelopes or doing something bigger where you're working on a big project or whatever it is, you're still learning from it and you're still gaining really good experience,” Hurst said.
For the administration, this is an opportunity to work closely with students and hear their opinions. They also develop a personal relationship with the students, spending 10 or more hours in the office with them every week.
Additionally, Presidential Fellows get to attend at least one major conference or meeting every year outside of Taylor.
“Imagine going to New York City,” said Will Hagen, vice president for strategy and chief of staff. “There's a lot of great TU alumni living there (and) doing impressive things that we can connect with. There's also really important historical or arts related things that we can expose the students to. I think travel is one of the best teachers.”
Hagen went through the program as a student at Gordon, and is now Lindsay’s right-hand man in working on the Fellows Program at Taylor.
The students in the program are also asked to do a major project to serve campus each year. At Gordon, this has looked like overhauling how they hire a more diverse staff and starting a prayer initiative. It is a chance for students to give back to their university.
“This semester that has been a big part of what I feel like has been important to the presidential fellowship, and it's the idea that who God calls he equips” said Hurst. “And I can truly say that for the presidential fellowship, I feel like he called me to it and he's equipped me for it.”