Senior accounting, finance major discusses Presidential Fellowship

Taliah Belcher, senior accounting and finance major, was named a recipient of the 2022 Presidential Fellowship at the annual reception on Wednesday, March 2. Presidential Fellows receive $10,000 for their research projects.

We sat down with Belcher to discuss her background, time at Lamar University, research and how the Presidential Fellowship will impact her future. taliah-belcher-bhm-spotlight

Q: Can you tell me about your background and journey to Lamar University? What brought you to LU?
A: I am originally from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Plano, Texas, to be specific. People always ask me why I am so far away from home, and I tell them that my main motivation for coming to Lamar University was diversity. I wanted to attend a university that was diverse as I was keen on meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures. I soon found that Lamar University checked many of the boxes of my list of wants in a school: located in Texas, a few hours away from home and medium-sized. I came to Lamar University for the first time on a campus visit and I was able to experience first-hand the community feel that many of the current students boasted about. After this visit, I was set on coming to LU.

Q: Can you tell me about your experience at Lamar University? How do you think your experiences will help you in the future?
A: My experience at Lamar University thus far has been incredibly impactful. As a freshman, I didn’t realize how many opportunities LU has for students. These experiences have helped me and will continue to help me in my professional and personal life. I have grown and developed so much from the organizations and programs I have been a part of and I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Because of Lamar University, I have been supported by people who truly want to see me succeed and have been motivated to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. I will carry the skills I have learned at Lamar University with me in ever new endeavor.

Q: How did you find out about the Presidential Fellowship? What was the application process like?
A: I became aware of the program a couple of years ago because a friend of mine received a fellowship. However, it wasn’t until now that I felt ready and confident enough to apply. The application process was fairly extensive. I worked on it for a couple of weeks to ensure its quality. I also attended an informational session and talked with past fellows to gain a better idea of how to navigate the process.

Q: When and how did you find out the news that you were named a recipient?
A: I found out a couple of weeks ago that I was named a recipient. In past years, the recipients were usually notified before winter break so, because it had been a couple of months into the new year, I was already anxiously awaiting a call, a letter, an email or anything letting me know my results. My actual decision letter came via email a few weeks ago in late February. I was very nervous to open the email, but when I finally did, it gave me no hints as to whether I was accepted. I expected to immediately see a “congratulations” or a “we sincerely apologize,” but it simply told me to read the attached letter. However, when I opened the attached letter and saw the “congratulations,” it took a minute for the shock to subside and for the pure excitement to set in.

Q: What does this fellowship mean for you?
A: The fellowship means so much to me. I was very hesitant to apply as I lacked confidence and the application seemed really daunting, but I realized I would be more upset not applying and forever regretting it rather than applying and not getting it. Receiving this fellowship shows that taking risks can bear great rewards. This experience presents a unique chance to explore different cultures, enhance my academic studies and experience living overseas. It will allow me to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have never traveled out of the country, so having the opportunity to experience something new while also doing something I love is surreal.

Q: Tell me about your project. What are you most excited about? What do you think the biggest challenges will be?
A: For my project, I will participate in an international study and research project. I plan to join the College of Business during their study abroad trip to Alicante, Spain and perform research there. After the study abroad program ends, I will travel to Stockholm, Sweden and then to Bonn, Germany. There are research institutes at each of these locations where I will be joining as a visiting researcher. The institutes are the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies, or BICC, and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI. Throughout my trip, I will be researching the impact of militarization on the financial and economic growth of developing and highly militarized countries. These institutions are both heavily knowledgeable about the military expenditures of their respective countries and it would be very beneficial if I was able to receive their guidance and expertise about my topic.

I will be testing multiple hypotheses by obtaining data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations. The specific indexes I will be looking at are the Global Militarization Index rank, GDP per capita, military expenditures and foreign direct investment. I will then use this data to perform statistical analysis tests for each of my hypotheses.
I am most excited about having the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the most prominent researchers in Europe. Building relationships with these individuals would not only be beneficial during the completion of my project, but in years to come as well. Furthermore, having the opportunity to study internationally would give me once-in-a-lifetime experiences that would have a profound effect on my life and could potentially better the lives of many people around the world. With the Presidential Fellowship, I will be able to broaden my cultural sense while getting a first-hand experience of what living on my own would truly be like. Moreover, I will be working in a state-of-the-art facility that will supply me with the best equipment and resources.

The biggest challenge I anticipate is having to navigate the city on my own without being fluent in the native language. However, I know there will be people at each research institution that I can rely on for help.

Q: What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to gain from this experience?
A: Upon completion of my bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend graduate school and complete my master’s degree. I then attend to sit for the CPA exam and work at an accounting firm. Having an experience like the one the fellowship will allow will help me tremendously when applying to graduate school, as it will demonstrate my capacity to conduct research and go above and beyond the requirements of my degree. A research project will also help me prepare for the advanced curriculum of this program. With this project, I hope to inspire other students to get out of the comfort zone and take risks. I also hope to be able to use the knowledge and lessons I learn to then support and empower the younger College of Business students who have aspirations of conducting research.