Many Inspirations

Spread good around the world

Many Inspirations
Fulbright scholar and SCU class of 2018 valedictorian Athena Nguyen at graduation/Jim Gensheimer

A stunning feat: Santa Clara is a top producer of Fulbright scholars. Eight former and current students earned the grants. With them they will improve access to electricity, education, and opportunity. The scholars travel to Lesotho and Indonesia, Fiji and Burkina Faso; others head to Vietnam and Ghana, Mexico and Taiwan.

Forward Together: Accompaniment. The idea of being present through another’s journey—sharing fates. It happens to students who come to SCU.

It’s a practice valedictorian Athena Nguyen ’18 strives toward.

In her graduation speech, Nguyen said “Cam on ban,” thanking her parents for supporting her journey in their native Vietnamese. It was at Santa Clara, she said, that her feelings about her multicultural identity shifted.

“For a long time, I was ashamed of my identity; however, when I came to SCU I discovered its strength and significance through accompaniment,” Nguyen said. As a student, Nguyen journeyed with others around the globe. In Peru, as a Jean Donovan fellow, she witnessed a mother decide to give up her child. As a Global Social Benefit fellow in Myanmar, she followed the paths of maternal and child health. After graduation, her journey continues. A Fulbright scholar, Nguyen is working as an English teaching assistant in Vietnam.

And, of course, she won’t be alone—seven other Santa Clara scholars are also journeying around the world on Fulbrights. “I’ve seen the thread of humanity that weaves us together in our common identities,” Nguyen told the 2018 graduating class. 

Athena Nguyen '18 Fulbright Scholar
Athena Nguyen ’18 is off on a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Vietnam./Photo provided by Nguyen

Fulbright: Taiwan
While observing a fifth-grade class in India, Shawna Richardson ’18 was surprised when the teacher never showed up. Richardson says she thought What the heck? before diving in to lead the class. She asked the kids what they were learning. Richardson says the experience was “absolutely wild.” That teaching experience and quick thinking will come in handy as she works as an English teaching assistant on a Fulbright in Taiwan. Richardson has learned that making a difference isn’t necessarily the point. Instead, she focuses on what she gains from various experiences, be those at SCU or during her time abroad in India as a Global fellow through the Leavey School of Business. “I really gained a good sense of the power of presence and what that means in terms of an international context.”

Shawna Richardson photo

Fulbright: Mexico 
While studying in El Salvador, Hollynd Boyden ’17 saw someone who changed her life—a little girl named Ana Maria. During recess, Ana Maria remained under a tree, alone, reading a book Boyden had left. Boyden says she could “see the spark in her and saw her desire to learn, not just English, but to read more and learn more. I think just seeing that gave me a lot of hope and a lot of drive and passion to try and use the skills that I have to instill that hope and that passion in others.” Instilling passion and hope is also a skill Boyden honed in athletics, as the former women’s varsity crew coxswain. The biology major will be taking those leadership capabilities—and passion—to Mexico as an English teaching assistant on a Fulbright. 

Boyden at reception

Back to Her Roots

Marisa Rudolph ’18 is heading to Ghana to work on farming and equality issues with her Fulbright grant./Illustration by Kyle Hilton

Farming is in the blood of Marisa Rudolph ’18, a descendent of North Dakota homesteaders. Still, growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, she thought it antiquated and uninteresting. That is, until she didn’t. A summer on an organic farm in southern Colorado and working with Professor Chris Bacon gave her a connection to her farming roots. That will come in handy as she studies efficiencies in farming on a Fulbright to Ghana. Rudolph’s first connection to Ghana came through a Global Social Benefit Fellowship there. On that trip, she did research with a company providing services to farmers. Through that she gained the confidence to apply for a Fulbright. “Getting a Fulbright was not something I would ever, ever have been able to do by myself,” Rudolph says. While at SCU, Rudolph ran for the cross-country team, dedicated herself to a variety of academic pursuits, and helped lead the Food and Agribusiness Institute’s food waste initiative, speaking at various food issues forums. She is interested in gender disparities in agriculture, and says that gap remains stagnant in West Africa despite the overall improvement of livelihoods over the past 50 years.

Francks illustration
Erika Francks ’17/Illustration by Lorenzo Gritti

Flash in the Dark It was an offhand remark from a teacher in India during her Global Fellows Internship that sparked interest in off-the-grid villages for Ericka Francks ’17. “On stormy days kids can’t see the blackboard,” the teacher said, “so they don’t even come to school.” The village didn’t have electricity. Learning couldn’t happen in the dark. Now Francks is going to study lighting up villages in the African nation of Lesotho, with research funded by her Fulbright. Her life experiences, Francks says, “all just kind of built on each other.” While in Lesotho, she will partner to pilot a program offering business training and infrastructure to rural solar power users.

Van Gasse Illustration
Katrina Van Gasse ’14/Illustration by Lorenzo Gritti

Empowered Support Vice President at Silicon Valley Bank and marketing major Katrina Van Gasse ’14 will travel to Fiji to study barriers to women-led microenterprises on a Fulbright. She credits SCU for giving her perspective in life, as well as giving her the confidence and drive to earn a Fulbright: “Perspective of what matters to my core—how complex, beautiful, fragile, and resilient this world is, and that living with purpose is important,” she says. As a student, she was “trying to figure out life,” but the opportunities she found at SCU made her feel like she “actually had something valuable to contribute,” which was extremely empowering. 

Carson Whisler illustration
Carson Whisler ’17/Illustration by Lorenzo Gritti

Follow the Sun Before coming to SCU, economics major Carson Whisler ’17 had barely left his hometown of Astoria, Oregon. This past year found him working in India as a Data for Impact fellow at SocialCops. And he’s not done traveling. He received a Fulbright to research “pay-as-you-go” solar technologies in Indonesia. While interviewing the sarpanch (similar to a mayor) of a village in India, Whisler learned electricity is about more than just power. For example, snake bites. “A few people actually died because snakes had basically gone in their houses and bit them, and they weren’t able to see them or fend them off with a stick or anything like that.”

Cloward illustration
Lauren Cloward ’16/Illustration by Lorenzo Grutti

Wordly Tenacity After being an alternate for a Fulbright grant in 2017, Lauren Cloward ’16 did not give up. She applied again. This year, she got the grant. Through it Cloward will conduct research on how agricultural decisions are made in Burkina Faso. Also a Rhodes scholarship finalist, Cloward double-majored in environmental studies and political science. “I feel so lucky to have found a second home in Santa Clara,” she says, “where those who have helped me define my path and whom I admire have also been my biggest advocates—and where I’ve learned the importance of tenacity in the face of our generation’s most pressing problems.”

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