University graduate wins distinguished scholarship


In September 2014, Matthew Cortland plans to take his experiences from teaching and his travels to study educational technology at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland.

Cortland, a Rutgers graduate, is one of 12 recipients in the country this year of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program. His 12-month-long graduate program at the Dublin Institute of Technology is a part of his scholarship.

The Mitchell Scholarship program, named after former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, is designed to introduce and connect future American leaders to Ireland, while recognizing intellectual achievement, leadership and a commitment to community service, according to the program’s website.

The Mitchell Scholarship Program provides tuition, accommodations, a cash stipend for living expenses and an international-travel stipend to 12 or fewer Mitchell scholars for a year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland, according to the website.

Cortland, who graduated from the School of Arts and Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and art history and a minor in Italian studies, is studying Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan, as a part of the Luce Scholarship he received last year.

Arthur Casciato, director at the Office of Distinguished Fellowships at Rutgers, said he has known Cortland for six years now, ever since he started applying for fellowships at Rutgers as a sophomore.

Of the scholarship’s 300 applicants, 20 were shortlisted for a finalists’ interview at the Irish Embassy, Casciato said. Recipients of the scholarship include graduates from renowned universities such as Duke University, Columbia University and Cornell, among others.

Cortland is also the first Rutgers graduate to accept the scholarship, Casciato said. A Rutgers graduate who won the scholarship two years ago had to decline it due to personal reasons.

“Two years ago, Tara Kousha won the Mitchell, but because of an illness in the family, she had to turn it down,” he said. “So Matt is the first at Rutgers to accept it.”

After graduating from Rutgers, Cortland said he was a high school reading teacher as a part of Teach for America in Miami. At the same time, he was pursuing a master’s degree in education and social change at the University of Miami.

Cortland said his experience at Miami got him interested in education and educational technology, and he wants to pursue his master’s degree in Dublin for creative digital media with a specialization in mobile, smart device and dynamic web applications design.

“I want to apply app design to the field of education and design educational software,” he said. “For my field, for entrepreneurship and technological innovation, Dublin is one of the best places in the world.”

Cortland is very grateful to his professors and mentors at Rutgers. He said Casciato, Jenny Mandelbaum, a professor in the Department of Communication and Barry Qualls, former vice president of Undergraduate Education, all played a significant role in his achievement.

The Mitchell Scholarship is a tremendous opportunity for him to study Ireland in-depth and meet people from different walks of life, Cortland said.

“I feel very fortunate and humbled. It’s like allowing a dream I have to become a reality,” he said. “It will allow me to pursue what I am academically interested in my career through involvement in the Irish community.”

Cortland, who studied abroad in Italy as a Rutgers undergraduate, said traveling has always been instrumental in helping him see the world with a global perspective. Casciato said he believes Cortland has an outstanding record not only as a member of Teach for America but also as the recipient of three major scholarships: Luce, Fulbright and Mitchell.

“In a very real sense, I am the fellowships coach for Rutgers students. In my seven years at Rutgers, Matt has been one of the most impressive and reliable players,” he said. “Matt’s success is not only a testament to his abilities but also to his determination and courage.”


By Vaishali Gauba

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