The Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship enhances the development of future leaders through world travel and experiential learning. The program is designed to allow a graduating senior the opportunity to purse an idea or an issue, about which the student is impassioned, and to do so in the context of daily life in a global scenario. International travel and learning develops a global orientation in the recipient, which the designers of the original fellowship thought essential for active citizenship and leadership in this complicated age. The program is not designed as either a graduate education or career preparation curriculum. The projects of past fellows have explored aspect of multinational business, maternal and child health care systems, worldwide HIV/AIDS treatment programs, international journalism, orchestral management, and indigenous art and craft production.
In addition to pursuing the self-directed project of international travel, the fellow is responsible for additional fundraising, monitoring finances, planning, and the maintenance of a personal website to share his/her experiences. More importantly, as the selected fellow fulfills his/her dreams for world traveling, he/she is also an ambassador who represents Vanderbilt University on the global level and inspires students to engage in activities that will prepare them to become engaged and active citizens of the world.
The idea of creating a fellowship based upon a self-designed program of travel and learning was conceived in 1960 by Amory Houghton, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Corning Glass Works. He worked in collaboration with J. Leslie Rollings, Dean of Admissions at the Harvard Business School, and John H. Finley, Eliot Professor of Greek Literature at Harvard College.
They believed that most of the existing fellowships favored students interested primarily in post-graduate academic pursuits. No fellowship, in their view, fully challenged a candidate’s ability to propose and undertake a post-graduate learning experience largely of the student’s making. Such a learning experience would be a valuable complement to the relatively formalized character of the undergraduate program.
The Corning Fellowship program expanded in several stages to include students from Yale, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and North Carolina, in addition to Harvard. Competition was keen among the applicants from all five of these universities. The Corning fellows spent a year traveling around the world. No two programs were alike. As a group, the fellows compiled a remarkable record of accomplishment in politics, law, business, and other fields.
Corning Glass saw its role as innovator and creator, yet not as the source of on-going support. Funding ceased in 1968. Nearly ten years later, the former fellows established the Corning Fellows Association, Inc. and Michael Ainslie, a Vanderbilt alumnus, was elected president of the group.
The goal of the Association was to challenge the universities that had previously participated in the Corning program to establish programs of their own. They took this action because they felt that the traveling fellowship had been one of the most important experiences in their lives.
The World Trade Council of Middle Tennessee and alumni contributions have allowed the University to award this fellowship only on an intermittent basis from 1998 through 2004. In 2003, Michael B. Keegan, the 1980 Traveling Fellow offered to fund the 2004 award and to secure an endowment that would guarantee this program on an annual basis. In recognition of this commitment to the program and to Vanderbilt University, the program has been renamed in Michael Keegan’s honor.
An award of $15,000 is now made to the selected Traveling Fellow.