Mary Elizabeth Winther ’15 Receives Lilly Graduate Fellowship

Mary Elizabeth Winther valued her experience at Hope, so much so that the 2015 graduate ultimately dreams of mentoring students at an institution much like her alma mater.

As one of only 10 young scholars nationwide to receive an award through the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program for graduate studies beginning this fall, and newly enrolled in a three-year MFA program in costume design at Wayne State University, the French and theatre double major is on her way.Winther_Headshot

“My dream career path would involve working in a theatre department at a college similar to Hope,” Winther said. “I would love to be the resident designer or the costume shop manager at a small Christian school where I could build meaningful relationships with students while teaching and designing.”

The Lilly Graduate Fellows Program is a part of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts that supports outstanding students who want to explore the connections among Christianity, higher education, and the vocation of the teacher-scholar as they pursue graduate degrees in humanities and the arts. Mary Elizabeth is excited by the opportunity that her fellowship will provide to continue to reflect on her career choice and faith holistically.

“The Lilly Graduate Fellows Program appealed to me as a way to keep me grounded and focused during graduate school,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to having a community of people who are motivated in their studies by their love for Christ and desire to seek Him through whatever academic path they follow.”

She has felt well-prepared by her Hope experience for both her forthcoming graduate work and her participation as a Lilly Graduate Fellow.

WintherDSC02184“Hope absolutely prepared me well for graduate school,” she said. “I was able to costume-design three fully realized productions for the theatre department, work in the costume shop (which will be a part of my graduate school experience as well) and take classes in all areas of theatre.”

“Several of my courses, both in and outside of the theatre department, asked that I think critically about why I wanted to pursue theatre, and how my faith would inform my choices along my career path,” she said. “I think all of these factors helped me to affirm my desire to work as a designer, and prepared me for the demands of a rigorous graduate school program.”

Winther has spent the past year as a costume intern with Meadow Brook Theatre, a professional company that operates on the campus of Oakland University in Auburn Hills. In addition to her participation in theatre productions while a student at Hope, she spent the spring semester of her junior year studying abroad in Paris, France, and was also in co-curricular activities including serving as a resident assistant, and the “Milestone” yearbook and the Nykerk Cup competition. A summa cum laude graduate, she was inducted into the college’s chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society.

Winther and the other nine Lilly Graduate Fellows were selected by an eight-member selection committee who interviewed 16 finalists (selected from 56 applicants) in April in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Fellows will meet together for three days at an Inaugural Conference on August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana, with their mentors, Gretchen J. Van Dyke of The University of Scranton and Douglas Henry of Baylor University. Following the Inaugural Conference, the Fellows will embark on a long-distance colloquium, engage in one-on-one mentoring relationships, and participate in the three additional conferences. All 10 are pursuing terminal graduate studies in humanities or the arts.

The Lilly Graduate Fellows Program is funded by a generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The program will select a total of 10 cohorts of Graduate Fellows from the current 99 schools that make up the Lilly Fellows Program National Network of Church-Related Schools. Lilly Graduate Fellows participate in a three-year program in which they meet regularly with a mentor, attend four conferences, participate in a long-distance colloquium, and receive three annual stipends of $3,000 ($9,000 total) to use at their discretion. More information on the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program is available at lillyfellows.org.

Founded in 1991, the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts seeks to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of higher learning through three programmatic initiatives. In addition to the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program, it offers postdoctoral teaching fellowships for young scholars who wish to renew their sense of vocation within a Christian community of learning in order to prepare themselves for positions of teaching, scholarship, and leadership within church-related institutions. It also maintains a collaborative National Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities that sponsors a variety of activities and publications designed to explore the Christian character of the academic vocation and to strengthen the religious nature of church-related institutions. The National Network represents among its current membership of 99 schools a diversity of denominational traditions, institutional types, and geographical locations.