The recipients of the 2022-23 Walter C. Wattles Fellowship—a program founded in 1969 and awarded annually to three Vanderbilt female undergraduate seniors—were announced on Nov. 16. This year’s recipients are Sarah Crosby, Mackenzie Moore and Sinclair Seeligson.
The fellows will work for a year within Lloyd’s of London, a global insurance and reinsurance market. Recent roles for which Wattles fellows were trained include Property Account Executive with Willis Towers Watson, Aviation Underwriter at Liberty Specialty Markets and Aviation Account Manager at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. The recipients will receive a fellowship grant, salary, housing and public health insurance provided by the National Health Service.
The application process for the 2022-23 Walter Wattles fellows began in September 2021. Per board member and former fellow Margaret Knauff (‘12), about 30-40 women have applied annually in recent years.
Moore explained that the initial application included the submission of a resume, a 500-word essay and a letter of recommendation. After, the first round of interviews occurred on Zoom.
“[The first interview] consisted of four previous fellows from all different years, and I went through my resume with them,” Moore said. “It was more of a casual, quick interview.”
Moore said the women selected for the final interview round had to commit to accept the fellowship if chosen as recipients. She explained that the first day of the final interview round included a cocktail party at which the finalists spoke to previous fellows. The second day was a “speed dating” style interview that lasted one hour.
“I would sit at a table and talk to four fellows at a time,” Moore said. “I talked to about 20 people that day.”
Knauff said the “speed dating” format helps the committee of former fellows and the Fellowship Board evaluate candidates beyond their academic credentials, instead focusing on personality.
“[The London market] is a very specific environment,” Knauff said. “We would not want to send someone who doesn’t enjoy interacting with people on a daily basis into a situation like that; it wouldn’t be the right fit.”
Knauff also said, just as women’s role in Lloyd’s of London has shifted, the fellowship has changed from secretarial roles to more technical and sophisticated opportunities. As Vanderbilt does not offer an insurance or business major, Knauff said it is most important to learn how to critically think and apply technical knowledge to different scenarios.
“Especially when you are working with a 35-year tenured underwriter in the London market, they are going to ask you questions that you haven’t gone over and don’t have a book to teach you,” Knauff said. “You’re not just regurgitating information but applying it to different scenarios.”
According to Knauff, the women involved in the Wattles Fellowship stay connected in a tight-knit community with some of them featured on monthly Instagram spotlights. Per Knauff, the fellowship is a unique experience that often requires a fellow to continue the work of the previous fellow, creating an instant network of fellows. She said this network is a great resource, particularly in navigating the job market.
“[The community] is one of my favorite parts, and most of us can agree that the fellowship afterlife is almost better than the fellowship itself,” Knauff said.
Seeligson said the community that the fellowship creates was evident in talking to her friend, a previous fellow, and speaking with other fellows throughout the interview process.
“I had no idea how strong the community was until I saw it in the interviews and talking to people on the phone,” Seeligson said. “All these women are very close, which is really special.”
Similarly, Moore said her interview conversations felt authentic and were a sincere way of learning more about the program.
“It was different from the networking I had done in the past,” Moore said. “Instead of checking it [networking] off the list to help me in the interview process, I just wanted to learn more about it [the fellowship].”
Seeligson said she is excited to travel to London for the fellowship, especially as opportunities for travel have been limited due to COVID-19.
“[Going to London] was one thing that I thought would be awesome to do [through the fellowship] since study abroad was something I was really looking forward to in college,” Seeligson said.
Seeligson also said she is excited to experience the London workplace.
“I’m excited to observe the difference between the workplace there and the workplace here,” Seeligson said. “I’ve heard about how different work culture is in different countries, and I’m excited to see and experience that.”
Similar to Seeligson, Moore said she is looking forward to being immersed in a new culture, particularly by living with the other two fellows and being in a big city.
“I am really excited to meet a lot of different people that have different past experiences from me as it [London] is such a diverse place,” Moore said.
Crosby is looking forward to the workplace in London and working in the insurance market. As someone who enjoys being and talking with people, she said she is excited for the social component of the fellowship and to interact with people on a regular basis for her job.
“[The fellowship] is such an amazing opportunity, and I hope that underclassmen look into, stay connected with and apply to the fellowship when the time comes,” Crosby said.