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Rosen Fellowships Send Students into the World

Program offers opportunity for travel, career experience

Austin Demarest, an ESF junior majoring in aquatic and fisheries science, has long dreamed about studying freshwater fish and coral reefs in the tropics. He made that dream a reality last summer through a fellowship that gave him an opportunity to plan his own career-related experience.

Demerest was a participant in the college's Rosen Fellowship Program, which gives students a chance to learn while pursuing real-world experience linked to their career and life goals. The fellowships are supported by a $25,000 gift from the Florence and Robert A. Rosen Family Foundation. The Rosens are successful business people who have also sponsored ESF interns at their Lakeside Farms property in the Hudson Valley.

The fellowship supplied Demarest with the funding he needed to conduct research in the northernmost portion of Palawan in the Philippine archipelago. He went snorkeling off Snake Island while conducting coral reef surveys and quantifying a native turtle population. Before heading out to Snake Island, Demarest also studied the fish species of Lake Manguao in Tay Tay, Palawan, and helped provide evidence that a non-native species of Nile tilapia is threatening endemic minnow populations in the lake.

"This experience also gave me an idea of how to work and collaborate with local governments, conservation professionals and locals to do research in their home towns," he said.

Demarest was one of five undergraduate students who were awarded the Rosen Fellowship in 2014. Students apply for the fellowship by researching and writing about their own ideas for an internship or opportunity relevant to their goals. Students typically do the internship work during the summer when they have more time to travel.

Laura DeJoseph McArdle, the former internship coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs, said that in 2014 the committee received 15 applications. The selection committee considers the feasibility of each project and the amount of preparation that went into it.

"In addition to just being a great career experience, applicants must also mention in the application how they think the experience could ultimately shape their futures," McArdle said.

Several recipients received funding to pursue an experience in another country, such as Elizabeth Katja Fiertz. Fiertz, an environmental resources engineering major, worked in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Her most significant experience included building a new water filtration system for the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco-Foundation. This small non-governmental organization provides programs in Kathmandu that educate local residents about sustainable lifestyle practices that also benefit less-privileged populations.

Fiertz proposed her project after volunteering for the organization and realizing that local residents had no way of filtering tap water during frequent power outages; they often relied on water jugs.

"I got to lead my first project, which was really cool," Fiertz said.

Senior Erin Reidy worked primarily in Thailand, during her fellowship, learning how Thai medical professionals treat everything from mental to tropical diseases.

"Learning about medicine in different cultures was truly an eye-opening experience," she said.

Reidy studied how to prevent and diagnose mosquito-transmitted diseases including dengue fever and malaria. She also spent time with patients in a psychiatric hospital, shadowed medical personnel during dozens of surgeries and even witnessed a few childbirths. The experience convinced Reidy that she would like to learn more about public health around the world, she said.

Not all of the Rosen Fellowship recipients took their projects abroad. Junior Stanley Kolosovskiy, an environmental science major, built an aquaponics system almost from scratch in his Syracuse apartment. Aquaponics systems involve constructing a closed loop between raising fish and growing plants; fish waste provides nutrients to grow plants and even edible vegetables.

Kolosovskiy had started the project before he was awarded the Rosen Fellowship. He used the funding to purchase expensive equipment such as sensors. He hopes to find a way to decrease the cost of aquaponics systems and make them accessible commercially as products anyone can use.

"It was exciting but also frustrating," Kolosovskiy said. "There was a lot of circuit work and wiring - I had to learn a lot on the fly." He said he was able to weave some of the work into his electrical engineering minor at Syracuse University.

Senior Katie Mott also learned valuable lessons beyond her ESF major through her fellowship. The environmental resources engineering major interned at a non-profit organization in Cape Town, South Africa, called Soil for Life. The organization teaches residents to use the soil around them in a more sustainable way for agriculture. She created two educational soil guides and an online map that shows how many people Soil for Life has trained and where they work.

"My favorite part of it was going into the townships, meeting all different types of people and hearing about how grateful they are for Soil for Life," Mott said.

Although she is studying engineering, Mott said her fellowship made her realize she would like more experience in positions that can help "give a voice to the voiceless." She hopes to study public policy after finishing her undergraduate studies.

In mid-October, the five Rosen Fellowship recipients met members of the Rosen family, ESF President Quentin Wheeler and former ESF President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr., now a senior university fellow, at a ceremony on campus to celebrate and share their accomplishments.

Hearing about the work of her fellow Rosen Fellowship recipients was inspiring, Mott said, as was sharing her experience with the current and past college presidents.

"When you get positive feedback from someone you've looked up to for a long time, like Dr. Murphy," Mott said, "It makes you feel motivated and gives you another reason to keep going."

-By Shannon Hazlitt, SU '14