Frequently Asked Questions about the New 2020-2021 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Application

The application cycle to become a 2020-2021 Albert Schweitzer Alabama Fellow has begun!

As Albert Schweitzer once said, “Everyone must work to live, but the purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others”.  If you are looking to serve in your communities while creating lasting change and completing your graduate degree, this Fellowship program is for you. The following answers all the questions you might have as a prospective applicant. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email us. 

Who can apply to be a 2020-21 Fellow?

Any graduate student whose service project would take place in the state of Alabama and who would be enrolled in their graduate program through April 2021 is eligible to apply. We have students in various masters and doctoral degree programs who participate. When you choose to apply is largely dependent on your academic program of study. For instance, medical students are encouraged to apply in first year, to do the program primarily during second year of medical school – and they are prohibited from doing it in third year. Many students in masters programs must apply soon after starting graduate school, if their program is 2 years in length, since we expect you to be enrolled while in the Fellowship, which extends through what is often the second (and final) year of a masters program. Any discipline is welcome, though! Although we tend to draw heavily from health-oriented fields, we strive to be interdisciplinary and all participants benefit when fields like business, engineering, divinity, education, law, and others join those like counseling, medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, social work, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and health professions.  Projects must seek to improve health or social determinants of health, but Fellows can achieve this from any disciplinary perspective.

What is involved in applying for ASF in Alabama?

Applicants complete an online application, which includes a series of questions as well as the following components : (1) resume, (2) a personal statement, limited to 3 paragraphs, and (3) providing the names and contact information for 2 references.  The application should take less than 1 hour to complete. The committee screens all applications and then makes interview offers. Interviews are then conducted before final offers are made. 

How many are chosen each year?

We tend to take 14-16 Fellows, although in 2020 we could take as many as 18, if our funding allows.

Why did you decide to change the application process?

Each year, we meet many passionate students who desire to engage with the community – but barriers sometimes keep them from applying. As we analyze what those barriers are, we’ve come to realize that some are very practical, like a concern about having time to complete the monthly leadership development workshops and the 200-hour project. We appreciate candidates being thoughtful about this and not applying if they do not have the time to do so. However, we also meet others who choose not to apply due to challenges with narrowing their interests, finding a community partner agency, identifying an evidence-based strategy to solve a problem, or finding a faculty mentor to guide them. We feel that this is something our program can integrate into our training curriculum to not only ease some of the burdens of applying but also ensure that Fellows receive a higher-quality learning experience. So in short, we want to better help those wanting to make a difference in a structured way to determine where needs exist and how they can make a difference.

Who is the selection committee and what are they looking for?

Our Advisory Council reviews the applications, makes offers of interviews, and conducts the interviews. Their scoring of interviews is ultimately what determines who receives an offer. They include representatives from our Consortium schools, including the UAB Schools of Dentistry, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; Samford’s College of Health Sciences; as well as from community organizations, such as the Jefferson County Department of Health and Clarus Consulting. Sometimes we have guests from other community organizations or individuals who address community need to assist with interviews.

This year, the selection criteria is changing slightly, as we are no longer evaluating applicants based on the feasibility of their projects. We will continue to evaluate a candidate’s awareness of unmet needs; ability to be both creative and practical in addressing needs;  time availability to participate without harming academic progress and evidence of time management skills; collaboration and team-work skills; and personal characteristics, such as overcoming obstacles and the potential to learn and grow. 

How can I best prepare to apply?

This year in particular, applicants will be challenged to display some self-reflection about what inspires them to pursue an experience like the Schweitzer Fellowship, what they would hope to learn or develop through the experience. So, spend some time contemplating what you care about and why you care about it. Awareness of current community needs could come about through academic coursework, but more likely it will be due to someone staying informed through the news, by volunteering, or from reflecting on their own personal experiences with inequity. For the interview, just be yourself! You’ll find that it’s not intimidating, as we are just trying to get to know you better. Also, if you are looking for inspiration for your project idea, look no further than previous projects from our current Fellows and Fellows for Life featured on our website

When will decisions be made?

The application deadline is November 4th, and we will make interview offers by November 12th. Interviews will be held between November 18th-21st. Selected Fellows will be notified by December 6th

Any other advice for applicants?

When you apply, you’ll be asked to agree to a set of responsibilities. These include that you will complete the 200 hours for a project, that you’ll attend at least 80% of the meetings, that you will attend the mandatory Orientation Retreat and Mid-Year Retreat, and that you’ll uphold a Code of Conduct. Please pay attention to the dates of the Orientation and Mid-Year Retreat! A lot of the training and group bonding occurs in these two events, which is why they are mandatory. 

Also, we are looking for people who view the Fellowship year as just an introductory experience, who want to continue to learn and grow together as Fellows for Life (our name for our alumni), as well.