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Three Loyola undergraduate students and one alumna win Fulbright awards

| By Nick Alexopulos
Loyola University Maryland 2017 Fulbright award winners
Clockwise from top left: Veronica Wasno, Allie Whitefleet, Sarah Leder, and Calix O'Hara.

Loyola University Maryland undergraduate students Sarah Leder, ’17, Veronica Wasno, ’17, and Calix O’Hara, ’17, and alumna Allie Whitefleet, ’12, have won Fulbright grants that will afford them the opportunity to spend a year abroad, immersed in an international experience where they will meet, work, live with, and learn from the people of their host country.

The four Fulbright U.S. Student Program winners comprise the largest number in one year in Loyola’s history.

“I’m delighted to see these motivated, globally-minded students from diverse academic disciplines represent Loyola University Maryland in the Fulbright program this year,” said Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, Ph.D., interim director of Loyola’s national fellowships office. “Fulbright builds global peace through scholarly and intellectual exchange, a theme close to many students’ heart and very important to me personally. I have lived more than half of my life abroad, and I know that the opportunity to work in a foreign country builds lasting friendships and desire for peaceful coexistence among nations and people of all backgrounds.”

Lehmijoki-Gardner guided the four winners through the application process. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing grantees to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, grantees interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

Sarah Leder, a double sociology and interdisciplinary psychology and philosophy major from Baltimore, Md., will travel to Laos to teach English in either a high school or a university. She chose the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program because she deeply values education, travel, and adventure.

“International and intercultural experiences are those that lead to the most fulfilling and life-changing lessons and memories,” said Leder. “I’m eager to experience Laotian culture; I’ve never been to Southeast Asia, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to experience religions and cultures I’ve only studied. I’m also excited for the food. As funny as it sounds, I think that food is a really great way to get to know a culture.”

Leder is in the Honors Program at Loyola and she serves as the criminal justice liaison for the Center for Community Service and Justice. She is heavily involved in social justice initiatives, particularly focused on the American criminal justice system. She studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.

When she returns from her Fulbright, Leder plans to enroll in a dual degree program to pursue a master’s in social work and a master’s public policy. She wants to dedicate her career to reforming and bettering the criminal justice system.

Veronica Wasno is an elementary education major and sociology minor from Beltsville, Md., who will participate in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Malaysia.

“I'm looking forward to the students,” said Wasno. “I can't wait to become a part of their life and have them become a part of mine. The teacher-student relationship most definitely goes both ways, and the impact we have on each other will go beyond the classroom. It will be such a learning experience on both ends, and that's the type of opportunity I crave, and why I am so humbled and excited to be a part of this program.”

Wasno is a Relay for Life-Loyola Chapter executive committee chair, worked on the senior class gift committee, and was involved in Campus Ministry retreats. She studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.

After her Fulbright, Wasno plans to teach in Baltimore City, and possibly go back to school to become a school social worker.

Calix O’Hara, a San Jose, Calif., native majoring in history and classical civilization with a minor in medieval studies, will conduct a research project at the Ghent University Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies in Belgium on the development of metalworking guilds in medieval low countries through the details of their craft.

“I’ll connect with traditional craftsmen in Ghent to strengthen my scholarship,” said O’Hara. “I also plan to learn Flemish so I can interact with members of local communities in their own language.”

O’Hara hopes to pursue a master’s in history at Ghent. When he returns to United States, he’ll pursue a doctorate in either medieval studies or history with a concentration in medieval studies while researching medieval urban history with a focus on crafts and craftsmen. Ultimately, he wants to teach at a university and continue this research.

O’Hara is a student in Loyola’s Honors Program and a member of the rugby team and the classical languages club. In addition, he earned one of Loyola’s prestigious Hauber Summer Research Fellowships.

Allie Whitefleet, from South Plainfield, N.J., majored in international business with a minor in Latin American studies at Loyola. She currently works for Spectrum Works, a social enterprise in Secaucus, N.J., that provides job training and employment for young adults with autism by building inclusive workforces into existing companies. Her Fulbright award will fund one year of the international MBA program she’s enrolling in this fall at Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain. During the program, Whitefleet will research the operations and impact of local initiatives that facilitate employment opportunities for Latin American immigrants.

“I strongly believe in the need for more financially sustainable business models among nonprofits and in integrating for-profit business models into mission-minded and charity work,” said Whitefleet. “Strengthening my management and operations knowledge in a learning environment where I have the opportunity to engage with an internationally diverse group of students, local businesses, and entrepreneurs will be incredibly enriching.”

At Loyola, Whitefleet’s business classes introduced her to the concept of social enterprise. She was deeply involved in the Center for Community Service and Justice in multiple roles, most notably as service coordinator for the tutoring program at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy and service coordinator for The Choice Program’s weekly college night at Loyola for at risk youth.

Prior to joining Spectrum Works, she served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Peru for two years and worked for Habitat for Humanity.

Whitefleet hopes to work in operations/strategy management for a social enterprise when she returns to the United States.

More information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is available at fulbrightonline.org.

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