Deadline to apply for $25,000 Keegan Fellowship to travel the world is Jan. 27

For many students, traveling the world after college is merely a dream, but for Vanderbilt graduates it can be a reality through the Keegan Traveling Fellowship.  

The Keegan Traveling Fellowship awards $25,000 to select graduating seniors (December or May) to enhance the development of future leaders through world travel and experiential learning. This year, two graduating students  will become Keegan fellows. 

Fellows study a self-chosen topic of interest in the context of daily life in communities around the globe. The award funds one year of travel, and the fellows design their own itineraries. 

The application period for this year’s fellowship is still open, and interested Vanderbilt students are encouraged to apply by the Jan. 27, 2023, deadline. 

Fellows will work with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Office of Global Safety to plan their multi-country, cross-cultural itineraries. While overseas, selected fellows must communicate monthly with OUE, OGS and their faculty project adviser.  

 Vanderbilt graduates have engaged in diverse adventures supported by the Keegan Fellowship since the program’s inception in the early 1960s. 

Five recent graduates are currently traveling the world as fellows: Frances Burton, Matt Zhang, Barton Christmas, Loulou Byars  and Yousef Abu-Salah. Burton, an economics and Spanish major and environmental and sustainability studies and business minor from Dallas, Texas, became interested in her fellowship topic of strategic environmental conservation through a monthlong exploration of U.S. national parks before coming to Vanderbilt and through the 2019 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, which she attended through the College of Arts and Science honors program. 

“My biggest goal was to gain a global understanding of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of conservation through the lens of national parks in order to develop more equitable, nature-based climate solutions,” Burton said. “To me, national parks represent a unique and untapped opportunity in the context of global climate change.” 

Zhang, a cognitive studies major from Lake Barrington, Illinois, began to develop his Keegan project proposal while studying abroad in Seville, Spain, in 2018. Through interactions with his host family, he began to question how intimate conversation connects individuals and what defines connection as a fundamental human need. 

“What, exactly, goes into building a lifetime together with another person? Why do some relationships last while others fade away? And how do the answers to these questions change or persist across different legal, social, religious and cultural contexts?” Zhang asked. “These are the universally significant, yet achingly personal, themes I’m exploring during my year with Keegan.” 

Christmas, a history and secondary education major from Paducah, Kentucky, is exploring how artists, specifically street performers, come to create their art, and how they are faring in light of the global pandemic, through his project titled “Art, High and Low.” Christmas, a Curb Scholar, is a balloon artist who has performed in several countries. 

Students and alumni interested in applying for the Keegan Traveling Fellowship should email Christina Cunningham ( with any questions.