Both dedicated to humanitarian efforts, seniors Katie Mercer ’21 and Jenna Thoretz ’21 have been awarded Rotary Global Grant Scholarships to continue to pursue meaningful work. An international network of leaders dedicated to improving their home communities and those around the globe, Rotary International focuses their work on promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water and sanitation, maternal and child health, supporting education and literacy, and growing local economies, and the Rotary Global Grant Scholarships empower students like Mercer and Thoretz to advance this important work.
Learn more about Mercer’s and Thoretz’s experiences at Gettysburg College, and what they hope to accomplish in the future with their scholarships.
Katie Mercer ’21
Mercer, a health sciences major and peace and justice studies minor, is actively engaged across campus, serving as the program coordinator for the Painted Turtle Farm at the Center for Public Service (CPS), a member of Alpha Delta Pi, and a research assistant for the Health Sciences Department.
Her favorite class at Gettysburg was Global Health with Prof. Amy Dailey. The course, Mercer says, set her on the path of studying global health, and credits Dailey with being a very important part of her Gettysburg experience.
“My four years at Gettysburg have been extremely impactful in shaping my graduate school path. My advisor, Dr. Amy Dailey, has been extremely supportive and helpful not only during this process but through my time as an undergraduate student discovering my interests in global health. She has inspired me with her work and allowed me to grow as a researcher by assisting in her community-based research projects,” stated Mercer.
After graduating from Gettysburg in May, Mercer will study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to continue her studies. The scholarship will allow her to engage with leading researchers and advocates in the field of global health, as well as support her research around the Rotary’s goal of disease prevention and treatment.
“I hope to someday use my specialization in the control of infectious diseases to create disease management, tracking, and treatment programs alongside humanitarian organizations in areas of conflict,” said Mercer. She continued, explaining that “The violence of war/conflict extends far past the battle lines; it causes system-wide destruction and degradation of human life. I plan to use my degree to bridge these health gaps and hopefully contribute, in some small part, to the improvement of health around the world.”
Mercer also recognized how her time working for CPS has played a role in teaching her to identify such gaps, and given her impactful life skills.
“CPS has taught me how to ask critical questions, analyze issues of intersectionality, and understand social mechanisms impacting biological processes. These Gettysburg experiences have helped me to grow and motivated me to pursue a career where I can continue to do so.”
Of being named a recipient of the scholarship, Mercer said, “Although I always knew what I wanted to study, at times it felt like I would never be able to make a real impact. Knowing that I have the support of an international organization like the Rotary Foundation gives me confidence and grounding that the things I am working on are important.”
Jenna Thoretz ’21
Thoretz is a political science and public policy double major and peace and justice studies minor. She has served the campus community as the president of the Peace and Justice Student Council, an undergraduate fellow with the Eisenhower Institute, a tour guide for the Admissions Office, a political science office assistant, and a member of Tri Sigma.
Thoretz credits these varied experiences with preparing her to take this next step in her academic career: “Gettysburg provided me with incredible educational opportunities that prepared me to apply for the scholarship. My professors and mentors have been instrumental in helping me develop my academic interests and apply them to work in the community and in internship experiences.”
Her experience extended beyond the Gettysburg campus, too, where she had the opportunity to study global health and development policy in Geneva, Switzerland, through the Center for Global Education. “[The experience] exposed me to the humanitarian community and ignited a passion that I have been able to continue back at Gettysburg through my coursework and research.”
Upon graduating, Thoretz hopes to continue the work of improving international development and humanitarian systems worldwide, and will pursue a Master of Science in international development and humanitarian emergencies at the London School of Economics in the fall.
“Upon completion of my graduate degree, I intend to re-invest the education I receive into improving international development and humanitarian systems worldwide,” Thoretz says of her future aspirations. “In working with humanitarian organizations, I plan to be an advocate for the special consideration of women in all development and humanitarian initiatives. In addition, I hope to shift focus from international actors to local actors in order to build more sustainable solutions to economic development.”
Thoretz shares that she is most looking forward to having access to an international network of Rotarians working on similar issues, and towards a shared vision for the future.
“This honor is an incredible opportunity,” says Thoretz. “Not only does it allow me to pursue graduate education, but it allows me to forge connections with like-minded individuals through Rotary. I am incredibly grateful to the Rotarians in Gettysburg for providing me with this life-changing opportunity,” stated Thoretz.
When asked what the scholarship means to her, Mercer agreed that the connections are paramount: “The… scholarship will not only provide me financial assistance and the capability to attend graduate school but to connect with other international advocates through Rotary who are engaging in the field I am studying.” She sums it up simply, saying, “This honor means more than words can describe.”
For both Mercer and Thoretz, the scholarship not only means the financial support to help fund their future research in London, but also the career-launching support of an international organization that will connect them with colleagues and allow them to fully pursue their future aspirations in the world.
Learn how the Office of Student Scholarly Engagement at Gettysburg College supports students in exploring post-baccalaureate opportunities to advance their education and further their academic careers.
By Isabel Miller
Photos by Romano Padeste and courtesy of Katie Mercer ’21 and Jenna Thoretz ’21