A Conversation With: Zoë Gioja, Fellowships Advisor, CUSE

Author: Lisa Walenceus

Zoë Gioja is the National Fellowships Coordinator for the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). She advises first-year and sophomore students who are interested in applying for national fellowships.

Zoë spent a year in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  She is a native of Austin, Texas, and earned a B.A. in history from Smith College (2013).


What does the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement do for Notre Dame students?

CUSE helps our undergraduate students get involved in academic endeavors outside the classroom — whether that's scholarly research, creative projects, or things like service learning. We help students find and create their own opportunities, and we help them find ways to make their ideas possible through funding. 

One of the ways we do that is by helping them apply for nationally competitive fellowships — most people know ones like the Rhodes Scholarship or the Fulbright, but there are many other opportunities. There are even fellowships for international and undocumented students.

We work really closely with students seeking a fellowship, starting with helping them identify appropriate fellowships for what they want to accomplish and then assisting them in putting together the necessary application materials. We even comment on their essays, practice interview skills with them, and help them choose recommendations that fit with the fellowship they are trying to get. 

Why should first-year students contact you now rather than later in their academic careers?

Some people might be surprised to learn that there are actually fellowships that students can apply for in their first year of college. For example, the US-UK Fulbright Commission Summer Institutes allows first-year students and sophomores with little or no international experience to apply for a three to six week academic and cultural institute in the UK. Those applications need to be submitted in January and February.

The Gilman and the Freeman-ASIA fellowships are another good example — if you are receiving need-based financial aid or can demonstrate a need for financial assistance, you can apply in your first year to receive support for study abroad. Award amounts range from $3,000 for a summer to up to $7,000 for an entire academic year.

Even if students don’t plan to apply for a fellowship in their first year, application processes can be complex and may require long-range planning. Starting early can make the process a lot less stressful.