Four graduating University of Michigan Seniors from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts have been selected as the 2020-2021 Bonderman Fellows. Christopher Posada, Andrea Tillotson, Charlie Bingham Jr., and Ella Lafata will be awarded $20,000 to travel the world where they must travel to six countries in two regions of their choosing over the course of eight months, and are expected to immerse themselves in independent and enriching explorations. The idea behind this program is to give these graduating seniors an opportunity to engage with people from various cultures, which will allow them to see the world from a new perspective.
“The Bonderman Fellowship presents a unique challenge to the four LSA graduates who are awarded this honor each year, as recipients must travel independently (i.e. alone) and may not engage in structured activities such as classwork or internships,” CGIS Director Michael Jordan said. “This is by design an itinerant experience that requires Fellows to continually engage with the new and unknown. It does not offer the comfort, security and sense of belonging that come with the ability to stay in one place and set down roots; instead, it demands self-reliance, independence and resilience. The students who strike out on this fellowship every year always return profoundly changed, having spent eight months testing their own limits in ways that they never even imagined.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School in the 1960’s, David Bonderman traveled internationally as a Sheldon Fellow and that experience shaped the rest of his life. He created the Bonderman Travel Fellowship in 1995 to provide students with a similar opportunity at the University of Washington.
In 2014, Bonderman’s daughter, LSA alumna Samantha Holloway (A.B. ’03), and her husband, Gregory (A.B. ’02), created the Bonderman Fellowship in LSA’s Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS). The University of Michigan is one of two schools, along with the University of Washington, to offer the Fellowship. Fellows make their own travel itineraries and, because this is meant to be an individual experience, cannot engage in formal study at a foreign university, conduct formal research, or travel with a guest or organized group.
“Bonderman has impacted the way that I see myself in the world,” 2019-2020 Bonderman Fellow Abigail Kennedy said. “There are so many diverse and beautiful places on this planet, and I am more driven than ever to participate in making it better. Most of all, the friendships and kindness I found along the way have shown me a new dimension of human compassion I didn't know I needed to see.’”
Please note that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the departure window for the '20-'21 Bonderman Fellows (typically May 1 - August 31) will be postponed until at least mid-August, possibly longer. Visit www.lsabonderman.com for further updates.
Meet the 2020-2021 CGIS Bonderman Fellows
Christopher Posada, Neuroscience major
"The ability to travel the world for 8 months as a Bonderman Fellow offers the unique opportunity to digress from the academic, political, and societal pressures that are otherwise forced upon us following graduation. Personally, I want to use the Bonderman experience to take a step back from thinking about my future academic or professional aspirations and prematurely choosing a path that may not suit my true goals and personality,” My education has been very liberating, but also constricted to a traditional academic setting. Through Bonderman, I will be able to explore culture, religion, science, art and more in an authentic and raw global context. This will allow for a more diversified learning experience and personal insights that will guide me towards novel discoveries and an evolved personal identity.”
Andrea Tillotson, Political Science major
“During my time at Michigan, I feel like I have gained a lot from the different perspectives and people I have encountered. This is also true of my classes, where I have been able to expand my horizons in terms of learning about the world we live in and theorizing about how it works. Bonderman feels like a radical extension of this learning: an opportunity to be constantly immersed in new perspectives, ones beyond what I have even experienced here at Michigan. I was also attracted to Bonderman because it is an opportunity to encounter the world without any other commitment than to experience countries and cultures as genuinely as possible. By being alone and without an agenda, I hope to be freed from the things that have tied me up mentally over the majority of my life.”
Charlie Bingham Jr., Political Science & American Culture major
“Seeing different ways of life, different ways of knowing, and different ways of doing. Well, not only seeing, but actively understanding and actively participating in these different facets of culture. As a lover of nature, I’m excited to see the different landscapes and geographic phenomena that the world has to offer. I am also excited to gain some perspective outside of the classroom. I had a short study abroad experience in Spain, but I still had the constraint of the classroom. Bonderman will be such an immersive experience.”
Ella Lafata, Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology major
“I want to pursue the Bonderman experience because I believe it is important to understand cultures besides your own. As a premedical student, I value this insight because I hope to respect and interact with people of all cultures in my future. What most excites me about Bonderman is the growth that I know it holds. I’m not too sure what that growth will manifest as, but I hope to reconnect with myself and to learn more about our world and the people living within it. I hope to gain a greater understanding about how culture shapes identity, health, and health practices. I’m also hoping to learn more about spirituality and how it can influence one’s life.”