Molly Westerman wins Mellon Fellowship in the humanities

After taking a year off from school and working as a sales clerk and a receptionist, Molly Westerman '99 has won an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the humanities. The fellowship covers graduate-school tuition and fees for the first academic year and includes a stipend of $15,000.

A sociology and English major at Kenyon, Westerman struggled a bit trying to decide what avenue to take in graduate school. She looked at several programs and won acceptance at Brown, Duke, Indiana, and Rutgers universities and the universities of Illinois and North Carolina. After visiting, she selected the University of Illinois, where she will study twentieth-century British literature. "I felt the environment at Illinois was the most like Kenyon," she says. "I liked the fact that people were friendly, supportive, and interested, not desperately competitive. At Kenyon, there was almost a sense of entitlement about the contact we students were able to have with our professors, and I appreciated that."

It is not surprising that Westerman would be looking for a supportive environment. A self-described clingy child, she left home at the age of fourteen to enroll at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, in a special program for gifted students. A year later, she transferred to Kenyon. Despite a few jokes about her not being old enough to drive, let alone drink or vote, "no one was weird about my age," she says. Along with enjoying a normal and typical social life, Westerman earned her degree magna cum laude and won election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Westerman sees many of her professors as models of the kind of teacher she would one day like to be. She's a little nervous about eventually stepping in front of a class at Illinois in which she may be younger than many of her students. "I want my students to know me and to know that I'm there to teach them," she says. "I hope they won't focus on my youth."

When not immersed in a book, Westerman enjoys the sport of fly fishing, an interest she shared with her advisor at Kenyon, President Robert A. Oden Jr. "My older brother, Chip, worked as a fisherman's guide in Montana during the summer and I would go up there and just hang out," she says. Westerman is now living in Champaign with her dog, Zoe, and a parrotlet, a small variety of parrot, named Anjou.