The Les Aspin ’60 Fellowship, 2017

The Class of 1960 Les Aspin Fellowship Committee met at Horchow Hall in the Jackson Institute on April 4 to interview 6 finalists selected by the Institute from 22 applicants for the Fellowship in 2017.  The endowment provided us up to $14,400 to allocate.  We selected three excellent candidates and arranged a contingency offer to a fourth, to be funded if the Overlap Committee should decide to use other funds for either of two of our selectees.

The Committee convened at 10:30 on Committee business, including introducing Neela Banerjee ’86 as our newest colleague, and reviewing the purposes and mechanisms of the Aspin Fellowship.  At 11:45 we were joined by Cristin Siebert, Director of Undergraduate Affairs for the Jackson Institute.  Cristin spoke to the importance of the Aspin, the winnowing process used by Jackson to produce the finalists, and the issue of potential liability of Committee members in light of the Hotchkiss case now pending in the Connecticut Supreme Court [Harry Mazadoorian has more detail].  We had a pick-up lunch with two Aspinites of 2016 with whom we discussed how to improve procedures and information about the Fellowship.  From 1:30 to 4:30 we conducted 20-minute interviews of the 2017 finalists.  The Committee discussed, conciliated, and decided between 4:30 and 5:00.  Committee persons who could do so convened at Mory’s at 5:30 for conviviality.

Present for the session were all Committee members except for Owen Cylke and Jim Trowbridge, stuck in Florida and Princeton respectively and Caroline Fredrickson ’86 on assignment in San Francisco.   Thus, we were four from the Class of 1960 and four from the Class of 1986.  Owen and Jim provided their observations to be held in camera until after the Committee folks present had rendered their verdicts, and their views were found to be generally congruent with the official deliberations of the Committee.  ’86 Co-Chair Gary Eisenberg, in addition to picking up new duties of Senior Co-Chair, will begin the search for an additional ‘86er to join the Committee next year.  Chuck Schmitz, as now Junior Co-Chair, will assist Gary in his duties through the next academic year.

Note: The Overlap Committee met on April 11.  Following its action, this Committee’s selections were as follow:

Jessica Gao, 2018, majoring in statistics, to Manila to produce base-line data for Innovations for Poverty Action (a Yale-based organization) for Asia Development Bank projects involving mechanisms for poverty alleviation.  Rigorous statistical evaluation of the effects of economic development projects has not heretofore been well established, so Jessica’s project may be a seminal development in the field.  Award: $4000.

Charlotte Desprat, 2018, majoring in History, to Moscow to work under aegis of the Carnegie Moscow Center to probe reasons through interviews behind the unwillingness of Russians to acknowledge their country’s responsibility for much violence committed under the Soviet regime.  Award: $1555.

Nicholas Jimenez, 2019, majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics, to San Salvador and western Columbia to research ways through interviews in which private enterprise can be more effectively involved in mediation and armed conflict.  Award: $3,719.

The contingent awardee is Dante De Blasio, 2019, majoring in Political Science, to Berlin to work with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation as the first non-European intern, to help the Foundation and the Social Democratic Party better understand American politics and culture and to deepen his own experience in German culture and European issues. Award: $2750.

The Committee, once again, was impressed by the poise and confidence shown by the finalists, even in the face of our occasional sharp questioning.  We were assured by the Jackson Institute that the process of appearing before a panel of imposing-seeming older alumni is an excellent life-preparing experience for the candidates; one not provided by most Yale fellowship procedures.  For those of us privileged to serve on the Committee, the experience was, once again, one that provides a vivid connection to, and restores confidence in the capabilities of, the upcoming generation of Yalies.


Charles Schmitz
Co-Chair, Yale Class of 1960 Les Aspin Fellowship Committee