You wouldn’t think a chemical engineering major would spend his first year out of college immersed in literature, but that’s exactly what graduating senior Kyle Allison is planning to do this fall.
Allison is this year’s recipient of the Roger M. Jones Fellowship Abroad.
The fellowship is awarded annually to an outstanding graduating engineering senior to study English and the humanities at a European university for a year, all expenses paid.
Its namesake, Engineering Prof. Roger Jones, encouraged all of his students to respect language and the written word. After his death in 1977, the fellowship was established to honor engineering students who wrote poetry. When his widow, Pauline, died, she left her entire estate to the fund. As donations to the scholarship continued to grow, the fellowship became a study-abroad program.
Allison will board a plane to Europe in September bound either for a school in London or the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Allison is also eager to experience European college life, which generally allows students more freedom than their American counterparts.
He will only be spending about two days in class for about an hour each day,. The rest of his time will be spent reading and doing research on his own.
“Even though I attended the College of Engineering, I’m very interested in literature, and there is a great deal to be learned,” he said.
The 2005 recipient of the scholarship, Thom Rainwater is studying modern poetry and Scottish verse at St. Andrews.
As an electrical engineering major, Rainwater said he was the “math and science kid” in high school, but has always had a passion for creative arts.
He never saw the humanities as a likely career, but after writing about Shakespeare and Scottish culture, Rainwater said he has learned how to research, argue a point and back it up – three things not all that different from what he does in engineering.
“I hope that this will help me communicate my ideas better to a wider audience,” he said.
Jeanne Murabito, the managing director of engineering undergraduate education at the College of Engineering, said the program is valuable for engineers because writing is important in the field.
“This provides a good balance for students pursuing engineering who also appreciate literature.”
While the fellowship can be a much-needed vacation from the gritty work of engineering, the winners don’t rest on their laurels after the program is complete.
Past fellowship winner Paul Albertus, who attended the University of York in England, is currently working on his doctorate at Stanford University.
Rainwater will pursue a career as an acoustician, an acoustic engineer, once his year in Scotland is complete. Allison is planning to enter a doctoral program in biomedical engineering after the conclusion of his fellowship.