GradFUTURES Fellowship Spotlight: Rebekah Haigh (GS, Religion)

June 26, 2021

In the GradFUTURES Spotlight series, Princeton graduate students share in their own words about their experiences in one of the GradFUTURES Fellowship programs: the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, the University Administrative Fellowship Program, or the GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowship Program. 


Where and when did your Fellowship take place?

I was a GradFUTURES Fellow at New America, the Center on Education and Labor (CELNA) in the Spring and Summer of 2021.

Background

After completing my BS at Rochester College and MTS and ThM at Emory University, I became a Fulbright Fellow at Hebrew University in 2017-2018. That experience opened a whole new world of academic exchange, research collaboration, and foreign policy. In 2018, I joined the PhD program in Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity at Princeton. My research is on ritual and violence in ancient Judaism, but I remain fascinated with role of the Dead Sea Scrolls in contemporary political, religious, and cultural discourse.

What drew you to the GradFUTURES Fellowship and this particular Fellowship?

While a third-year graduate student, I began exploring the resources that Princeton University offers for professional development. I didn’t want to delay this process until the end of my PhD program. After speaking with James M. Van Wyck, assistant dean for professional development, I decided that a GradFUTURES Fellowship was a good fit for the experiences I was hoping to attain. I was drawn to New America and the opportunity to learn about advancing public policy, a process I’d been fascinated with since my Fulbright.

Can you share a bit about the Organization and the projects to which you contributed?

New America is a public policy institute where Fellows and program staff work to problem-solve some of the social, economic and political challenges America faces today. My fellowship was with the Center on Education and Labor, which is dedicated to strengthening the link between economic mobility and education. A significant part of the fellowship involved data collection for CELNA’s ongoing project on community college baccalaureate programs.

I also wrote several pieces for New America that combined my own interests with CELNA’s focus on education, labor, and workforce development. The first piece, “Faith and Community Build HOPE and a Connection to Jobs in Detroit,” concentrated on the role non-profits and faith-based organizations can play in workforce development. My next piece, “Six Years and No College Degree,” highlighted a few of the reasons why college students may not finish their bachelor’s degrees.

Finally, I wrapped up the fellowship with a more policy-oriented piece, “Travel-Based Learning at Community College,” in which I argued that academic travel can be an invaluable part of a community college experience and such programming should be expanded nationally.

How did these experiences help you?

As a graduate student, you know you’ve accumulated a certain set of skills. But you don’t always see how those skills translate beyond the daily grind of graduate school. Through my GradFUTURES Fellowship, I saw how research, data analysis, and communication skills could be leveraged beyond a classroom or dissertation, both in professional and public spaces.

My time at New America also helped me clear my mind and organize my time more effectively. There’s something really motivating about completing short term projects. As a result, I’ve restructured the way I organize my own workflow. Finally, the GradFUTURES Fellowship helped me understand myself and my career goals a bit better – and that was the most valuable part of the experience.

Can you share some reflections on the mentorship component of the GradFUTURES Fellowship?

The mentorship was an absolute delight. At the outset of the fellowship, my mentor, Iris Palmer, helped me strategize my learning goals. She (and the whole team) was incredibly supportive and invested a lot of time in my professional development and in helping me make professional connections.

Best advice for Graduate Students considering the GradFUTURES Fellowship Program?

Graduate students should begin thinking about life after the PhD sooner rather than later. An experience like the GradFUTURES Fellowship is an opportunity to develop skills that could serve careers both inside and outside the academy.

 

Read more GradFUTURES Fellowship Spotlights here!