NWC grad named winner in prestigious fellowship competition

Daniel Berntson, a 2006 Northwestern College alumnus from rural Paullina, Iowa, has been named one of two recipients of American Graduate Fellowships, which provide winners up to $50,000 a year for two years of doctoral study at one of 23 top-tier private research universities. The competition, a new initiative by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), is designed to promote doctoral study in the humanities.

Berntson was earlier named one of 12 finalists. When one of the originally selected winners chose to attend a graduate school not eligible for the award, Berntson was selected to receive a fellowship. The award is contingent upon admission and full-time enrollment in a humanities doctoral program at one of the eligible universities, which include institutions such as Brown, Columbia, Princeton and Yale.

“I’m really excited,” says Berntson, who has decided to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy at Brown. “It’s an affirmation of my choice to attend Northwestern, because it prepared me to do so well.”

Berntson graduated Summa Cum Laude with majors in English and philosophy. He was also accepted into several other graduate schools, including doctoral programs in English at Northwestern University and Notre Dame and the philosophy programs at Duke, Georgetown and Syracuse.

The fellowship program is intended to support graduating seniors or recent graduates from small and mid-sized private liberal arts colleges who plan to pursue a doctoral program in the fine arts, history, literature and languages, or philosophy. A panel of award-winning scholars chose the finalists and recipients based upon the candidates’ applications, which included a 1,000-word review of a book that has influenced their academic field, a purpose statement about plans for graduate study, GRE scores, college transcripts and letters of support.

The fellowship winners and finalists included graduates of Vassar College, Claremont McKenna College, Carleton College, Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Richmond.

Berntson, who is spending this year working on his family’s farm, says his Northwestern College education gave him good preparation for the fellowship competition. “I felt particularly well prepared from the close interaction I had with my professors. They helped me tailor my studies for what I wanted to do in graduate school—doing independent studies and honors research in both English and philosophy. A lot of what prepared me well were other students. I found a lot of students at Northwestern who were engaged in the discussion of ideas.”

Inspired by his Northwestern professors, Berntson says he would like to become a college professor. “I would like to work for awhile at a graduate institution where I could focus more on research. Eventually, though, I’d like to teach at a Christian liberal arts college like Northwestern because I really appreciated my relationships with the professors at NWC and would like to have those kinds of mentoring relationships with undergraduates.”

At Northwestern, Berntson was a Norman Vincent Peale Scholarship recipient, Honors Program graduate and Sigma Tau senior honor society member. He assisted philosophy professor Don Wacome with research and proofreading for a book project, played piano in the Jazz Band, helped found the Juggling Club, studied in Germany, interned at the National Endowment for the Humanities, served as a worship intern on the Campus Ministry Team, and was an editor for the student newspaper.