Otis Fellowships


Application Deadline: 1 Feb by 11:59 PM  

Click Here to Apply! 

The purpose of the Otis Fellowship Program is to encourage among Bates students the kinds of concern for and interests in the worlds of nature that Phil Otis ’95 demonstrated. These concerns and interests focused on the consequences for other living things of human pretensions to dominion over the rest of nature. Phil was interested in studying and reflecting upon new and innovative ways to understand, appreciate, and express our inter-dependencies with the earth. He was especially interested in reflecting upon how diverse cultural perspectives, especially moral perspectives, might contribute to the transformation of attitudes toward nature. Phil trusted new adventures and new personal experiences as occasions that might provide “new beginnings” for appreciating our places within the natural world.

The criteria for the selection of Otis Fellows are:

(1) the degree to which the proposal is an innovative or imaginative way to carry out a personal concern or interest in the natural world;

(2) evidence of academic and other preparation for the kind of activity proposed (it is expected that Otis recipients are prepared for the intended exploration through a combination of academic work, readings, or other appropriate actions, and that Fellowship recipients will think deeply and engage in active reflection during the project);

(3) evidence of planned activities that can be implemented and completed in the time allotted and with the funds requested.

Fellowships provide support for a student-designed project. Otis projects are expected to be immersive experiences of extended duration, undertaken over a minimum of eight weeks during the summer. Longer duration projects are preferred. Academic credit is not granted for Fellowships.

Since the Fellowship program aims to encourage individual students to carry out self-designed, innovative and imaginative proposals, the grants may not be used to cover the costs of affiliation with another institutionalized project or program unless such participation is a small part of the otherwise individualized activities. Fellowships are not granted to support explicit research goals or programs of either the student applicant or a faculty member.


Eligibility. All actively enrolled, full-time first-year, sophomore, and junior students, regardless of major, are eligible to apply. Seniors are not eligible. A joint application with another Bates student is possible. The budget for a joint project may be up to $12,000 if the need for extra funds is justified in the request.

Deadline. Applications must be submitted via the online webform by midnight of the deadline noted above.   Proposals will not be accepted after this time.  All interested students are urged to talk with one of the members of the Otis Selection Committee prior to completing their essay. Please note: Students who will be studying off campus in February must contact Dean Edili Lopez in the summer or fall preceding the application deadline to discuss their interests. Students planning to be away in the winter semester are encouraged to submit an application by December 1 in the event that the committee would like to interview them before the end of the semester.

Applicants are informed of the selection before any public announcement is made. Students selected are expected to confirm the acceptance of their awards.

Application package.  The completed application is submitted as via webform.  The following items must be included to be considered a completed application: (a) web application  (b) a one-paragraph abstract of no more than 100 words; (c) a statement of approximately 1,000 words (3-5 pages double-spaced) that describes the focus of your activities, your reasons for doing them, the ways they will be accomplished (applicants must provide evidence that the project can be implemented and that, if applicable, safety issues have been addressed), and what you predict the experience will mean to you; (d) a short (not more than four typed lines) summary of the activities; (e) a resume-like summary of your academic work to date and other activities that give evidence of your interest in the purposes of the Otis Fellowship and demonstrate that you are prepared for the reflective component of the project; (f) the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of three persons who can attest to your qualifications for succeeding in the project; (g) a statement indicating if the project involves the use of animal or human subjects and was subject to review by the Animal Care Committee or the Institutional Review Board, and if so, whether the project was approved; (h) a concise and realistic budget for the project; (i) a project timetable with the begin and end dates of the project (these dates will be used as the basis for the payroll contract).

Awards and budget. Awards, which usually do not exceed $6,000, are made through the Otis Fellowship program. Fellows receive their funding through the College payroll system on a schedule agreed upon by the Fellow and the committee. A budget should accompany the application that includes: (1) summer wages of $400 per week for up to ten weeks and (2) any travel or living expenses; modest equipment costs; or translation, guiding, or transcription costs. Students are encouraged to discuss their budget with Edili Lopez in the Dean of the Faculty’s Office (122 Lane Hall, via email: elopez2@bates.edu ).

Academic record. The selection committee may review applicant transcripts.

Interview. The selection committee reviews all proposals and may interview some applicants.

Campus report. Following the completion of the project, each Fellow offers a presentation to the College community. Details of this obligation are discussed with each Fellow.

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2023 Otis Fellowship

Maria McEvoy ’25: Following the Thread: Spanish Wool and La Trashumancia. Maria wanted to understand exactly where her clothes come from and feel comfortable justifying the purchases she makes. She followed the chain of production for one of the oldest and most well-established textiles: Spanish wool. The Iberian Peninsula’s long history of pastoral nomadism—or la trashumancia—continues to inform the relationships between industry, people, and land in modern-day Spain.

2022 Otis Fellowship

Adilene Sandoval ’23:  Land Stewardship, Agriculture, and Migration: Understanding Triqui Indigenous Identities and Agricultural Practices in the Context of Migration. Adilene, who is interested in working to advance Indigenous people’s rights and culture, lived and worked among Triqui people in Oaxaca, Mexico, and in migrant agricultural communities in California, to better understand their ancient ancestral agricultural practices in relation to land stewardship and identity across spaces and nations.

2021Otis Fellowship

Salma Ali ’24: The Somali Nomadic Life. Having grown up in the city in Somaliland, Salma do not now much about her grandmother’s life in a nomadic community. She spent the summer with her extended family among a community of nomadic farmer-herders, creating housing, caring for animals, producing food, and connecting with her family and with the land of her homeland in a new way.

2019 Otis Fellowship

Jesse Saffeir ’20: Between a Wilderness and a Wasteland: Poetry from Maine’s Powerline Corridor. Beginning in Kittery and heading for the Canadian border, Jesse walked alone through the powerline corridors of Maine, contemplating the landscape, the human impact on the landscape; our insatiable need for energy; and her own isolation, strength, and resolve on the way. She created a stunning collection of poems from her journey.

2017 Otis Fellowship

Kawai Marin ’18: Rooted in Movement: A Search for the Sacred Among the Trees. Kawai’s  pilgrimage was drawn on inspiration from John Muir along with Henry Thoreau and seeks to build on the tradition of ecological contemplation through walking by elaborating on their principles of ecological interconnectedness and the sacredness of nature. Through his walk, he was able to use multiple artistic mediums to document his daily contemplative practice.

2015 Otis Fellowships

Katherine McNally ’17: The ocean is not just beautiful: Oral histories from the island of Grand Manan and the Atlantic. Kate explored how ongoing changes in ocean resources and mainland culture defines island life on Grand Manan. By traveling to coastal villages, Kate obtained valuable interviews with fishermen and community members, which was turned into a written account and given back to the Grand Manan Historical Society archives.

Britta Clark ’16 and Michela Moscufo ’16: Ecosophy X: Revisiting the Deep Ecology Movement in Norway. Britta and Michela explored the contemporary status of Arne Naess’ “deep ecology” and the potential to drive environmental discourse and action. They integrated themselves into communities impacted by Naess’ theories of deep ecology and ecosopies, gaining understanding and perspective from the people who experience it in daily life.

2013 Otis Fellowship

Alexandra Balter ’14: Exploring Sámi Reindeer Herding in Northern Norway. Ms. Balter embedded herself into the Sámi culture, participating in reindeer herding and earmarking, while interviewing herders and locals about the practice of herding and exploring human interactions with the landscape that is conflicted between ancient rituals and a modernized world.

2012 Otis Fellowships

Brian Kennedy ’14 and Joshua Sturtevant ’14: Unpeeling the Banana Coast. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Sturtevant explored environmentally evocative stories in Kujalleq, Greenland as they relate to the local inhabitants, the world at large, and themselves, through interview, photography, and immersion.

2011 Otis Fellowship

Leigh Michael ’12: Entwined Bonds: The Complex Relationship Between the Logging Industry, Communities, Individuals, and the Environment.  Ms. Michael explored how the logging industry has affected the social and environmental spheres in the Pacific Northwest. She spent her summer in Oregon, hiking and camping in the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests, while interviewing loggers and their families to garner first-hand knowledge of the industry and its changes overtime.

2010 Otis Fellowship

Gohar Shahinyan ’12: Planting the Roots to Self-Empowerment on Community. Ms. Shahinyan returned to Yerevan, Armenia, where she worked with the people in peripheral residential neighborhoods to rejuvenate their neighborhood courtyards.  Through her project she created a sense of community stewardship and ownership, and helped them to improve their self-confidence by illustrating their power to alter their own environment for the better.

2009 Otis Fellowships

Chad Frisbie ’10: Biking the Ring Road: Rethinking the Icelandic Landscape. Mr. Frisbie biked  the 870 mile “Ring Road”, which circles Iceland, and interior roads to experienced the natural dynamic and open space of Iceland. Along the way he conducted interviews with Icelanders on their diverse outlooks on the future treatment of the landscape in regards to the proposed hydroelectric dam projects. He used the medium of poetry,to express his thoughts and feelings.

William Loopesko ’10 and Russell Milholland ’10: Yukon Bound: Documenting the Passage and Presence of Humans in The Last Great Wilderness. Mr. Loopesko and Mr. Milholland hiked the Chilkoot Trail, the historic miner’s trail from the Pacific Coast to the river’s headwaters, and then paddled down the Yukon to discover the relics from its historic past and experience the rich local culture. Throughout their journey they used different media to record the passage or presence of humans through the area.

Kaitlin Webber ’11:  The Tradition of Sustainability: Folklore and Organic Farming in Scotland. Ms. Webber worked on organic farms in Scotland to get a better understanding of the relationship between the farmers and the land that is depended on for sustenance.  Through the bonding experience of working the land with her host family, became immersed in the local ecology, history, and became aware of the vital connection between them.

2008 Otis Fellowships

Hwi Ling Ng ’09: Following the Ganges – A Collision of Flesh and Spirit in Water. Ms. Ng documented in photography and writing the changing phases of the River Ganges from the place of its birth to the point of its union with the ocean, and explored how man has altered the banks and course over the miles.

Ellen Sabina ’09: The Faroe Islands. Ms. Sabina traveled to Faroe Islands and explored the relationship between the Faroese people and ocean. Isolated by geography and fiercely proud of their heritage, the people of the Faroe Island depend almost entirely on the sea for survival and adhere to the traditions that sustained their ancestors, including the driving of the pilot whales.

Anna Skarstad ’11: Farming in the Western Fjords of Norway: An Endangered Life? Ms. Skarstad traveled to the Western fjords of Norway, and spent her time between two traditional sheep farms, one located high in the mountains, and the other on a remote, mostly abandoned island. She focused on how and if these farms manage to thrive despite being affected by nature in extreme ways. She questioned the strength and profundity of the relationship these farmers’ have with their land.