"Subtlest of All the Snares"
Interviewing Kazakh candidates earnest to go on a fellowship program to the U.S. for a Masters degree program can be rewarding. In four days we have to interview 55 applicants and will only choose 13 finalists and 4 semi-finalists. Some interviews are tedious and we can hardly wait for the 15-20 minutes to lapse. Others applicants are pure delight to interview to find out their goals and what they want to achieve and how they hope to implement their plans once they return to their home country of Kazakhstan.
Some interviewees appear self-absorbed with very bad English, others are nervous, some look good on paper but in person they are NOT who they say they are in their Project Statement. Of course, their references, transcript and vita can sort that out a bit but some have had a lot of help in writing. Thankfully, others know how to write. Those are the ones we want to invest our U.S. taxpayers’ money in, the ones who can handle writing a masters thesis.
It is fun to meet the two other interviewers and we seem to work seamlessly together. One is a Wm. Clinton Distinguished Professor who has had a long academic career and lives in the Wash. D.C. area. The other interviewer is a Russian Kazakh who just returned on the Muskie program a few months and was awarded his masters degree at Notre Dame. We have been similar in our opinions of who should be recommended for the program and who would not be good to go. The idea is for the finalists to go for one or two years of study and to return to help improve the country in their sphere of influence be it in law, business, public policy, education or whatever discipline. Some are overly ambitious and looking out for number #1, others have a heart for volunteerism and working hard to make their country better.
I’m reminded of something similar written by C.S. Lewis from The Great Divorce. He wrote of the theologian’s danger: “There have been men…who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ! Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.”