With the end of another school year approaching, students are worried now more than ever about the next step. Some graduating students may be wondering where they’re going to go from here and, more importantly, how they’re going to pay for it.
For some students, Lucy Gent Foma, a Transportation Scholar from Santa Fe, has the answer. Foma is the author of “Funded! How I leveraged my passion to live a fulfilling life and how you can too!” which is scheduled for release on May 16.
“Funded!” is a workbook for people who have a vision for a project but lack the funding to execute it.
Foma sat down with the Daily Lobo to share more information about the book she’s been working on for the last two years.
DL: Tell me about yourself.
Foma: I am from Santa Fe originally. I come from parents who taught West African dance and drums. And for the past seven years, I’ve done everything since college on fellowships, scholarships, and grants ... I’ve done fellowships in environmental studies, projects with youths [and] I’ve done city regional planning.
DL: Tell me about your book.
Foma: It’s a workbook telling students – or anyone really, it doesn’t have to be students – of going through the process of how to become an applicant, who gets fellowships and scholarships. And that’s from the very beginning phases of believing in yourself and the motivational part of understanding that this can happen for anybody ... all the way to applying for fellowships.
It has worksheets throughout that ask you to put down the key information you need for an application and gives you advice. By the end of the book, you have the skeleton and a draft of the application that you can then modify for whatever it is you want to apply for.
DL: The title talks about how you used these methods to pursue your passions. Tell me about these passions.
Foma: My passions are traveling and working to make the world a better place. At first, my passion was environment issues, trying to fight climate change and global warming ... But then I realized that in order for humans to take care of the planet, humans have to feel fulfilled themselves. Because when you’re feeling like what you’re doing in your life is just ... going to work nine to five, and you can’t see the worth in what you’re doing, you’re just going for the paycheck ... your vision is like tunnel vision.
But if people can find ways to get enough money and do what they’re really interested in doing and feel fulfilled in what they’re working in ... then [their] scope of vision broadens and [they] can care for other people, care for the environment [and] care for society instead of just thinking, “I need to survive.” My over-arching philosophy is, “happy people, happy communities.”
DL: What inspired you to write down how you did it and share it with the world?
Foma: People kept asking me for help. I’m on a couple databases ... so people would find my name because I’ve done these fellowships and they would approach me individually. I’m happy to do that because a lot of people did help me along the process when I approached them ... But I thought this is a set of knowledge that I have gained and refined over these years, and I can write it down so that it can be distributed more widely.
When looking into what other books are out there about this, I found that there are a bunch of books about grant writing in general out there, for like non-profits, but this is a specific area because it’s for personal grants and personal projects ... If it’s something that you just want to explore on your own and delve into something that interests you, fellowships and scholarships offer a way that you can do that independently and for a shorter amount of time.
DL: What kinds of people could benefit from your book?
Foma: I’m talking right now at colleges because I think one of the main audiences are college students. You’re in a situation right now where you can connect with professors and mentors who have resources for you. You have people who are specifically there to help you. College students are a great audience for this because you’re trying to figure out what’s next... I want to get a college audience aware of this.
But scholarships are not only for college students. I’ve done all of this since graduating from college, and I know people who are in their 50s and 60s doing Fullbright. It’s not an age constrained thing you can do... It’s a great way you can take some time off your career, or whatever you’ve been doing, and have money and time and more leisure to explore something else ... and it’s not like you’re dropping off the face of the Earth. Because when you come back, you have a fellowship on your resume and it’s an accolade so it actually is a bump up from where you were before.
In all ways, I think it’s just a great tool to give you money to explore what you want to do.
DL: And what type of people could benefit?
Foma: I think people who have a vision for what they want to do. As long as you have a passion and you see a need in the world, then this is what you can use to make something happen to meet that need. ...It’s a step in the direction of making positive change. If you’re the kind of person who sees a need and sees that you can do something about it ... then this is for you
DL: What do you hope readers who have that vision take out of using your workbook?
Foma: I hope it empowers them to be able to take the process upon themselves. One of the most difficult things is that it’s a mystified process, and the book demystifies it. ... It’s a guidebook that gives you the tools to know about yourself and what you’re interested in, but it also gives you the steps that you need to take to do this process.
DL: Without giving away too much, what is the secret to applying for funding?
Foma: The secret is knowing how to make yourself unique and knowing what you have to offer... Knowing how to become the applicant that these fellowship committees want to award. Besides having and intriguing topic, the key part is crafting the story about yourself. Having a beginning, a middle and an end about where your life has taken you and where you are going related to this topic that you want to do. You want it to seem like it’s inevitable that you are the perfect person and this is exactly the right time and exactly the right place to make this happen.
DL: Anything to add?
Foma: I see so much promise in everyone I meet... So many times I see people who have something to offer, and sometimes they see it and sometimes they don’t. I think it’s worth the time and the gift to yourself to investigate what it is you have to offer. I talk about fellowships as a gift to myself... It’s something precious you can give yourself to believe you’re worth that time and that investment.
For more information about “Funded!” or Foma, visit www.LucyGentFoma.com.
Skylar Griego is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TDLBooks.