Spark Program provides mentoring for competitive fellowships; apply now

Fall semester cohorts will meet from October to December

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State first- and second-year undergraduates from all campuses are invited to apply to the Spark Program, which helps students prepare for fellowship and scholarship opportunities.

Two versions of the program — in-person and remote — will be offered in fall 2021. The in-person version will meet from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the University Park campus. The remote program will be offered through Zoom from 12:20-1:10 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Both versions of the program will meet for nine weeks starting in October and end during the final week of classes. (The program will not meet over Thanksgiving break.)

The program will consist of a series of workshops featuring speakers from a wide range of experiences, including student panel of Spark alumni and a research mentor panel. Participants are also expected to meet individually with representatives from Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM) and University Libraries.

The Spark Program has helped numerous students to be better prepared for the rigors of fellowship applications such as Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes and Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, as well as Penn State-sponsored programs such as the Erickson Discovery and Student Engagement Network grants. Visit to find profiles of students who have benefited from the Spark Program.

Applications are open now and close on Sept. 6. The application can be found here. Faculty can recommend students to the Spark Program.

Eligible students must submit an interest statement and commit to attending at least eight of the nine workshops.

The Spark Program will also be held in spring 2022, and students can apply for this round of the program starting in January.

Student stories

Julia Briselli, a communication arts and sciences and philosophy double major, was part of the spring 2021 Spark cohort as a first-year student. She said Spark allowed her to work toward her professional goals and build relationships with faculty and staff mentors at Penn State.

Julia Briselli is a communication arts and sciences and philosophy double major. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

“Spark is all about recognizing your goals, finding the opportunities that will help you reach them, and connecting you with the people who can help you obtain those opportunities,” she said. “The leaders of Spark made every student feel uniquely valued, and they cared about getting to know us each personally in order to better support us.”

Muggs Leone, a psychology major in the premed track, said the program helps students find resources they otherwise might not know about.

“You will make so many connections and be very informed about what is out there, and it will help jumpstart your involvement now so you can develop these connections throughout your time at Penn State,” Leone said.

Muggs Leone is a psychology major in the premed track. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

Leone said the program made connections that helped him get on track to study abroad, as well as speak with a career adviser and refine his resume, even though Leone was only a first-year student at the time. It also led to a position at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, where Leone is now on the student staff.

To learn more about University Libraries, visit Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated August 17, 2021