Lawrence students honored with scholarships for international work, study

Rebecca Carvalho

This week Lawrence announced that three students and one alumna were awarded Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships, one alumna was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and one senior student was granted a U.S. State Department scholarship to a critical language program abroad.
Natalie Grattan, a senior bio-chemistry major, was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Foundation Scholarship to attend the University of Otago, New Zealand to study public health.
Grattan is the president of the student organization Students War Against Hunger and Poverty, and last December she traveled to Sierra Leone, where she helped conduct nutrition and health surveys.
Grattan is enthusiastic about pursuing medical school at the University of Washington when she returns from New Zealand and would like to work with the World Health Organization in the future.
Like Grattan, junior Sarah Ehlinger found inspiration in Sierra Leone last December. A geology major, she is heading to the University of Ghana in Accra, as a 2011-2012 Rotary Scholar. Ehlinger is interested in studying environmental hazards and will return to Sierra Leone to conduct research on lead contamination in schoolyards.
Sonya Weston, who graduated in 2007, was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to attend the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Weston will focus her studies on Indian politics, history and society and will pursue an intensive Hindi language study. Weston majored in government and is currently working as a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Last among Lawrence’s Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship recipients is Jamie Gajewski ’09, who graduated last December with a major in Spanish. Gajewksi will study Arabic at Egypt’s Alexandria University.
“I first encountered Arabic while studying in Granada, Spain. There is a lot of influence from North Africa in this southern Spanish city,” said Gajewski, who took a class on Islamic Spain while in Granada. “I spent time wandering the Moroccan quarter of the city, speaking with shop owners from all over the Middle East.”
When Gajewski was a senior at Lawrence, she heard talk of Instructor of Arabic Massimiliano Verita’s Arabic Language classes.
“I had already completed the majority of my majors and thought about beginning a third language. I thought about French, but then decided on Arabic once I found out it was being offered for the first time as a Lawrence course”, explained Gajewski. “I really enjoyed the challenge and beauty of the Arabic language and thus stuck with it all year.”
The Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship requires students to spend more than a year abroad. The scholarship is an opportunity to act as an ambassador for the United States, and Gajewski is aware of her responsibilities and plans on volunteering while in Egypt.
“I would like to volunteer with an organization that empowers women or work towards the alleviation of poverty in rural Egypt,” she said.
Gajewski plans on documenting her experiences in a photographic essay. After her year abroad Gajewski wants to travel with her boyfriend, Peter Huck ’09, who will be teaching English in France.
“We would like to visit Rotary clubs along the way, helping out with volunteer projects and seeking adventure along the way,” said Gajewski.
Verita also influenced Megan Brown, a graduating senior with a major in linguistics. Brown was awarded a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic this summer at the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan.
Brown was selected from among nearly 5,300 applicants and joins a group of 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students awarded one of the state department’s critical language scholarships.
“My first contact with Arabic happened here [at Lawrence], and Prof. Verita was a large part of fostering my love for the language. He is the most supportive language instructor I’ve ever had,” said Brown, who is especially interested in Arabic due to its grammar.
Brown continued, “Root-and-pattern morphology fascinates me, and the agreement rules in Arabic are also extremely interesting.”
When Brown’s ten-week program abroad is over, she would like to take a year off in Madison and apply to government agencies or non-governmental organizations to offer her languages skills.
“Diplomacy and bilateral/multilateral relations are going to be extremely important in the 21st century with the increased globalization of the world,” explained Brown, who is particularly interested in working for the U.S. Department of State.
Closing this year’s list of big achievements, senior Christina Blomberg was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Turkey. The Fulbright Fellowship was created by the U.S. Congress in 1946, and its main goal is to promote understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.