LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates Andy Baxter ’16, a physics and mathematics double major with a business administration minor, on his selection as a finalist for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship. The Mitchell scholarship funds graduate study at any university in Ireland, and only twenty students nationally are chosen as finalists. Andy, who is a senior University Honors and Honors in Mathematics student, underwent an extensive application process at A&M in order to obtain the campus’s nomination for this National Fellowship.
In late November, Andy flew to Washington, D.C. for his finalist interview and reception, having previously succeeded in a semifinalist interview via Skype. He recounts the experience in his own words:
“The US-Ireland Alliance hosted me in the elegant DuPont Circle Hotel and treated us to a wonderful weekend. The evening before my interview, I had the privilege to attend a reception at the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C. This reception was the best part of the process since I was able to meet former classes of Mitchell Scholars, some of the selection panel, and friends of the program. Serena and Trina, the directors of the Mitchell Scholarship, helped connect me to people working in my field so that they could provide me with advice for the future. During the reception, I also met the other finalists. Even though we had plenty of hors d’oeuvres at the reception, the group of finalists attended dinner at a nearby Irish restaurant. This allowed me to really get to know the other finalists. Throughout the process, Serena and Trina continually told the finalists that we were all qualified to be Mitchell Scholars, and the decision at that point was completely subjective. By having dinner with the other finalists, I truly discovered the truth behind this statement.
The day of the interview actually proceeded very slowly. My interview time was at 2:30 PM, so I was free until 2:00 PM when I had to have my picture taken. Even the process of selecting a portrait made me feel special as the photographer was extremely friendly and helpful. In the interview, I was seated at the head of an 11 person table. Serena and Trina sat closest to me, but they did not participate in the interview or selection. Although the interview is typically a very casual conversation, almost as if at a dinner party, one of my interviewers turned the conversation to politics and religion. Another interviewer humorously noted after about five minutes of discussion, “Those are the two topics you should never discuss at a dinner party.” Perhaps the divisive nature of this issue worked against me in the selection, but the selection panel takes so many other factors into account, including the collective dynamic of the 12 Mitchell Scholars, that this may not have even affected the selection.”
Among the notables present at the embassy reception were Frank Bruni, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and representatives from BioMarin Pharmaceutical, the Department of Justice, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and Palantir Technologies. Although not selected as a Mitchell Scholar, Andy considers the finalists’ weekend “an amazing opportunity to meet incredible people, see an amazing city and learn a lot more about Ireland.”
Andy and the LAUNCH office extend their thanks to the Association of Former Students for its generous support of fellowship candidates’ travel to interviews.
For more information about applying to nationally competitive scholarships, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu/National-Fellowships/About-National-Fellowships. The campus nomination process for the next round of Mitchell scholarships will take place in late Spring 2016.