Being selected for a prestigious scholarship or fellowship shines like a badge of honor on a resume. But how one translates that distinction into the real world means much more. As 2019 Hollings scholar Lauren Sherman ’21 described, it’s a “one-in-a-million shot” for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The environmental studies major felt guilty at a young age knowing the number of organisms going extinct in aquatic ecosystems from the shores of Lake Erie to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
“We’re killing [our environment] by not acting against climate change,” she said.
Now, Sherman has a chance to act by interning with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through its scholarship program.
“This shaped who I am and motivated me to find a way to make a difference other than walking around the beach with a trash bag picking up litter,” she said.
At its core, Gettysburg College embraces the “spirit of a liberal arts education,” said Aiden Egglin ’17, preparing its students for success during their undergraduate studies and upon graduation. Offering abundant opportunities in and out of the classroom provides a foundation that shapes them into empowered individuals leading within a global community.
Gettysburgians like Sherman pursue paths that pique their curiosity, actively seek answers to profound questions, and adopt a personal drive to enact change.
Joining Sherman in that pursuit are seven fellow Gettysburgians who received prestigious awards this year, four of which present post-graduate opportunities.
Brittany Bondi ’19, Marley Dizney Swanson ’18, Aiden Egglin ’17, and Vanessa Martinez ’19 received grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which is sponsored by the Department of State. Bondi will travel to Mongolia to continue her research on environmental injustices, while Egglin and Martinez join English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs in Spain and South Korea, respectively. However, instead of using the grant, Dizney Swanson will be joining the Peace Corps in Botswana to help combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Olivia Peduzzi ’20, Erin Schroeder ’20, and Claire Woodward ’20 were awarded Goldwater scholarships by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, marking the first time three students were selected from Gettysburg College. Each rising senior plans to pursue a PhD in scientific fields to advance research—Peduzzi in inorganic chemistry, Schroeder in molecular biology, and Woodward in biochemistry.
At the heart of each of these scholars is passion—passion for research, passion for people, and passion for an environment that beats as one.
“What they all share is a curiosity about people, countries, and cultures different from themselves,” said Maureen Forrestal, assistant provost for student scholarly engagement at Gettysburg College. “They’re also good people who have evidenced an awareness that there are others who may not have had the advantages they have experienced and want to make things better for everyone.”
For Bondi and Woodward, it’s about sharing the voices of the silenced and providing an outlet for the undocumented.
When Bondi conducted an independent study project her junior year while abroad in Mongolia, she not only learned about environmental science, but she also witnessed how humans’ disturbance of the environment affects others, specifically how mining afflicts the lives of nomadic herders.
As a result, she felt compelled to return to present their stories to both government and non-government officials after they opened their hearts and their homes for her educational development.
“I recorded a plethora of impactful stories, wrote a 20-page research paper, and then simply left the country without giving back to those who gave me their time,” Bondi said. “[With the Fulbright grant,] I now have the opportunity to give back to the country and communities that gave me so much.”
Woodward’s inspiration hit even closer to home.
Because her father suffers from a rare autoimmune disorder, she began reading what little she could about it in high school—and landed at Gettysburg College to try to do her part to alert the scientific community about the unknown.
Just 120 miles south of her hometown, the Bloomsburg, Pa., native found a support system—from faculty and staff that offered new research experiences and workshops to friends who understood the demands of a biochemistry-molecular biology major. That backing then led her to the Krogsgaard laboratory at the NYU School of Medicine for a summer research program analyzing immunological issues.
“I read a lot about my father’s disease, which drew me to immunology and resulted in my choice of major when I got to Gettysburg,” Woodward said. “It’s really important to me that my work is meaningful and my research is progressing."
While the application process for these prestigious awards may seem “daunting,” it’s “worth the experience,” said Woodward. It’s another example of pushing oneself out of his or her comfort zone to further develop as an individual and a professional.
“The Gettysburg College community was crucial in helping me to grow as a person and pushing me to take advantage of all of the extracurricular opportunities available to me,” said Egglin, who first studied abroad in Spain as a junior and also spent a summer in Nicaragua through the Center for Public Service.
“Ultimately, I feel that much of the experience teaching and traveling that made me competitive for an ETA was rooted in my education at Gettysburg and the global perspective it encouraged me to have.”
By Megan Miller
Photos by Miranda Harple and Shawna Sherrell