• Emily Cowan

Strauss Becomes Lilly Fellowship Mentor

Dr. Charles Strauss, Associate Professor of History at the Mount, was named as a Mentor to Lilly Graduate Fellows. The Lilly Graduate Fellowship program is a three-year program for people that have degrees from Lilly Fellowship Program Schools and want to pursue careers in teaching at church-related universities in the United States. Strauss is a former Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow and will be co-mentoring the twelfth set of fellows with Dr. Martha Green, a professor of English at Eastern Mennonite University.

The Lilly Fellowship Program started in the early 1990s to help graduate or postgraduate students not only learn their specialties but also to teach. This is especially for schools like the Mount that have missions for their students that connect learning to broader concepts.

When Strauss left graduate school, he had a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellowship where for two years he had readings, mentorship, a colloquium and conferences which all surrounded the idea of how graduates help support the missions of the schools at which they teach. He does not think he, “would have been able to do this as well without Lilly.”

Strauss became a co-mentor through his extensive experience with the Lilly Network. He went from being a post-doctoral fellow at Valparaiso University in Indiana to being the Mount St. Mary’s representative of the Lilly Program. Strauss finally got the call which he “thought would be later in [his] career” asking him to be a mentor.

He claims that being a mentor is really fun. Aside from that, each cohort has 10 students from the humanities and arts such as history, theology, philosophy, media studies and visual art. All these students are in graduate school throughout the country and graduated from the Lilly Network. He loves being able to meet all the, “bright, creative, energetic graduate students at a really interesting point in their life.”

The students, Green and Strauss all meet once a summer for three years at a conference where they read books together and discuss them while also doing different activities to help them all get to know one another. Last summer was their inaugural meeting at Hope College. Next summer they will meet at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. The following year, it will take place here at the Mount and the final conference location is yet to be determined, though it will be like the conferences prior to it.

Every other week for the next three years, they will come together in a Zoom meeting for an hour-and-a-half to discuss readings that are given in a syllabus associated with the program. On the weeks where these meetings do not occur, Strauss and his co-mentor each call their respective half of the students individually and ask them how they are doing in classes and outside of classes. Strauss and Green are always curious to see if the students in their program have thought about their research project yet and if they are having any challenges they want to work through.

Strauss is most looking forward to “showing off our campus” because he wants the students to see that small schools like the Mount are important and easy to overlook without realizing. Many of them are at large research universities and he wants them to see how special places like Mount St. Mary’s University are.