The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Number of fellowship applicants, recipients on the rise since the hiring of Matthew Loar

The Director of Fellowships and Student Research connects W&L students to prestigious postgraduate programs
Julianna Stephenson
The university assigned a full-time staff member to fellowships for the 2018-19 academic year. Matthew Loar was hired in 2019.

Washington and Lee has moved up 44 places on Fulbright’s Top Producing Institutions List since the university designated a full-time staff member to advise students on applying to fellowships.

The former Associate Dean of the College, Gwyn Campbell, was moved to fellowships full-time in 2018 before Matthew Loar was hired as the Director of Fellowships in 2019. Dallas Tatman, the assistant director of fellowships, joined Loar in 2023.

The number of recipients for the Fulbright, Boren and Gilman Fellowships in 2023 is almost five times the amount awarded in 2017.

The university has had 43 Fulbright recipients in the past four years, but in the ten years before Loar was hired, there were only 33 total. For the 2022-2023 school year, Washington and Lee was No. 2 in Fulbright grants across baccalaureate institutions.

“We punch way above our weight,” Loar said.

In the ten years before Loar was hired, Washington and Lee did not have any Boren Scholars but has had eight since he was hired. The university is also the only small liberal arts college in the country to produce more than one Rhodes Scholar in the past decade.

This year, Washington and Lee has its first ever Marshall Scholar, Katie Yurechko, ’24.

Yurechko is also a Johnson Scholar. There may be some correlation between the introduction of the Johnson Scholarship program — which covers tuition, housing and food costs for students who demonstrate academic achievement, leadership and integrity — and the number of fellowship recipients, Loar said.

The last three Rhodes Scholars are also all Johnson Scholars, but not all of the Fulbright or Goldwater Scholars are Johnsons, Loar said. The first graduating class with Johnson Scholars was in 2012, and the amount of fellowship recipients remained stagnant until 2018.

A full-time staff member dedicated to fellowships has had more of an impact, Loar said.

“I got hired; students are coming. Professor Tatman got hired; more students are coming,” Loar said.

Yurechko said she would have never gone to the Fellowships Office if a friend hadn’t recommended it, and she urges everyone to make an appointment.

“I don’t think any of the people who receive a fellowship see themselves as the type of person who would get it,” Yurechko said. “It’s always worth shooting your shot and seeing if it’s something that might work for you.”

Yurechko applied for a couple of fellowships during her junior year but says she felt like she didn’t have quite what they were looking for.

“I felt like I wasn’t fitting these boxes,” Yurechko said. “But [it’s helpful] to have someone like Dr. Loar look you square in the eyes and be like, ‘You would have such a great shot, I believe in you and I’m here for you throughout the process.’”

The summer before Yurechko’s senior year, she had weekly meetings with Loar to continually work on essays for her application.

“I will work with students until the essays are perfect or until the deadline,” Loar said.

Juyoung Kim, ’26, a Gilman Scholar, worked with both Loar and Tatman and had a similar experience to Yurechko.

“The first time I went in, I had worked really hard on my essays, but we cut out almost everything,” Kim said. “They really hammer in every single word.”

Among small institutions, Washington and Lee was the number-three producer of Gilman Scholars for the 2021-2022 academic year, Loar said. However, on the Gilman Top Producing Institutions list for the past 20 years, the university was not ranked.

Kim is using his fellowship to study abroad in Taiwan for spring term, while Yurechko will be in the United Kingdom for the next two years. Her first year will be at the University of Oxford studying the social science of the Internet, and her second year will likely be at University College London to get a master’s degree in computer science.

Both Kim and Yurechko said they are thankful for Loar and Tatman’s guidance.

“When you first go in there, they fix so much about your application,” Kim said. “I don’t think I could’ve done it without their help.”

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