Santa Clara Seniors Win Fulbright, Coro Awards
SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 20, 2019—Santa Clara University is proud to announce that four seniors have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships, and one has won a prestigious Coro Award. Two additional seniors were named Fulbright alternates, and will receive awards if other finalists are unable to accept.
Graduating seniors James Wang ’19, Arelí Hernández ’19, Samantha (Sammi) Bennett ’19, and Katelyn (Katie) O’Neil ’19 (who completed her studies in December) each were awarded Fulbright Scholarship grants to study or teach in Cachan, France; Tunja, Colombia; Bangalore, India; and Cali, Colombia, respectively, during the next academic year. In addition, senior Beau Scott ’19 was chosen for a highly selective Coro Fellowship, enabling him to explore a broad range of public-sector policy issues for nine months in San Francisco.
“Santa Clara University is very proud of these outstanding seniors for setting their sights on elite awards that will help them improve the world using their own respective gifts,” said University President Michael Engh, S.J. “We applaud them and those at Santa Clara who helped guide them to be wonderful ambassadors of our Jesuit values.”
The Fulbright Scholarship winners will spend their year on projects ranging from teaching English to conducting research on sustainability, “hybrid supercapacitors,” or women’s participation in economic development.
“All of our Fulbright applicants work extremely hard on their applications and inspire me with their maturity, values and tenacity,” said Naomi Levy, director of the Office of Student Fellowships. “I am so excited that these students will get to realize their unique visions to create meaningful change in their fields of interest.”
The SCU Fulbright Scholarship winners for the 2019-2020 academic year are:
Sammi Bennett ’19
Senior environmental studies and psychology major Samantha (Sammi) Bennett will study in Bangalore, India, researching women’s participation in economic development activities, specifically in the field of clean-energy technology and entrepreneurship.
Bennett’s vision for her Fulbright research grew from her time as a Global Social Benefit Fellow (GSBF) with Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. She worked in Uganda and Rwanda with All Across Africa, a collection of artisans—many of them women— researching how they could scale into new regions and further advance women’s economic empowerment.
With her Fulbright, Bennett will be working with an organization called Pollinate Group—which provides micro financing to Indian women to sell solar lanterns and other clean-energy products to impoverished residents—as well as the Centre for Women Studies at Bangalore University. She will delve into ways in which Pollinate Group can further involve women in its business model and advance women in the energy sector.
“I am so thrilled to be able to explore my interest in women’s agency and decision-making in the clean-energy sector in India, a country that exemplifies the unrealized potential of women, with only 26 percent of women working in either the formal or informal economy,” said Bennett, who is originally Phoenix.
She has been in Santa Clara University’s Honors Program all four years, and traveled to Bolivia as a Global Fellow in the summer after her sophomore year. As an intern at SCU’s Center for Sustainability and as co-president of the on-campus Food Recovery Network, Bennett helped develop an app that alerts students about food that is left over from on-campus events.
During a semester of Study Abroad, she traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to study sustainable development, and took classes in environmental psychology. She participated in SCU’s Associated Student Government; Santa Clara Community Action Program; served as an orientation leader; worked on vocational training with teens with disabilities in the Forge Garden; and she currently leads the College of Adaptive Arts Program, an arts college for adults with disabilities. She co-founded SCU Mindfulness, a group that promotes healthy living among SCU’s campus community.
Bennett hopes to continue working at a grassroots level with social businesses, then obtain a master’s or Ph.D. in sustainable international development, resilience systems, or social entrepreneurship. She also hopes to continue exploring the connections that exist between women’s agency (the ability to make effective choices and transform them into desired outcomes), resilience to climate change, and community-based initiatives.
Arelí Hernández ’19
Senior ethnic studies, political science, and Spanish triple major Arelí Hernández will be an English teaching assistant at Universidad de Boyacá in Tunja, Colombia, starting this July. She will also work on a community-based project, possibly focused on reintegrating migrants returning home, or working with youth and dance if possible.
The award is Hernández’s second in the Fulbright program. She was one of only four Americans chosen to participate in a three-week summer Fulbright program after her sophomore year, during which she studied in London at SOAS University of London, a leading institution specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. She took a course called “NGOs in Social Movements, the Politics of Protest and Change.”
“That was really amazing because our class was made up of activists from all over the world involved in many different social movements, and together we got to analyze nonprofits from a critical perspective,” she said.
As a junior, she studied abroad in Ecuador with a nonprofit that helps integrate refugee and immigrant populations, largely from Venezuela and Colombia. The work included lobbying for ordinances and government policies, organizing events to celebrate diversity and culture, and shadowing a social worker in various capacities. She also participated in the University’s Global Fellows program, interning in Kadapa, India, at the Aarti Home for Girls, helping with fundraising, interviewing public officials, and working with the young residents.
Hernández is a LEAD Scholar at SCU, a program for students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. She was a Student Ambassador, and a member and then co-chair of Ballet Folklórico de SCU. The oldest of four, Hernández thanks her family and hometown community in Napa Valley for their constant support. “As the daughter of two incredibly hard-working immigrants from México, I am so thankful for all that my family has taught me and I am excited to continue seeing the fruits of their labor come to life,” said Hernández.
After her Fulbright year, Hernández plans to continue her schooling and research in ethnic studies. “I’m interested in the intersection of gender and migration,” she said. Additionally, Hernández said she’s interested in doing “research into the value of implementing ethnic studies more into our K-12 systems here in the U.S.”
Katie O’Neil ’19
Katelyn (Katie) O’Neil, who graduated in December with degrees in environmental studies and Spanish, will teach English and work on a project devoted to sustainability in Cali, Colombia, starting in October.
Originally from Freeport, Maine, O’Neil aspires to be an international teacher —and already has extensive experience teaching and living abroad. As a high schooler, she lived in Spain and Nicaragua. After graduating early as a junior, she lived in Mexico, where she worked on environmental education. She also spent time at a nonprofit housed in a Guatemala City garbage dump, where she taught adult literacy and helped start a library.
While at SCU, O’Neil studied in Peru as part of a program focused on indigenous people and globalization with the School of International Training. She conducted research on environmental and economic sustainability in a community in the Andes, and learned to speak some of their Quechua language.
Environmentalism is a family affair for O’Neil, whose family composts and grows their own food in coastal Maine. Her mother works in environmental policy for the Maine League of Conservation Voters, and helped get passed the new law banning styrofoam in Maine, a first in the nation. Her brother studied environmental science at Colby College, before starting an aquaculture company growing scallops.
O’Neil also taught English as a Second Language through Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) to a female custodian at SCU. “She is the most determined person I’ve ever met,” said O’Neil of her ESL student from El Salvador. “She’s so inspirational, so committed to learning every morning, even when she’d been up all night working, cleaning up after us. It didn’t really leave much room for me to feel sorry for myself in any moment of academia.”
O’Neil also took five Experiential Learning for Social Justice courses at SCU (which only requires one), including joining a reflection group with the Las Madres mother’s group in the Washington Neighborhood of San Jose, working with immigrants at the Mayfair Community Center, and learning about their problems with food scarcity. She also worked in the Bronco Urban Garden.
During the summer before she graduated, O’Neil was an associate with AmeriCorps in Maine, where she learned to write grant proposals and helped run a food pantry and a weekend food-in-a-backpack program for school kids. In the summer between her sophomore and junior year, she participated in the food-loss program of SCU’s Center for Food innovation and Entrepreneurship (CFIE, formerly named the Food and Agribusiness Institute.) There, she helped quantify the amount of produce local farms leave behind, as part of an effort to find ways to reduce such waste. At CFIE, “I got to see an angle of the tech world that I didn’t even know existed,” she said.
James Wang ’19
Senior James Wang, an environmental science and electrical engineering major, will research “hybrid-supercapacitors”—a new form of energy storage with potential benefits for renewable energy—in the Paris suburb of Cachan in France.
Originally from Foster City, Calif., Wang has spent his SCU years developing and exploring his passion for the environment, and honing his engineering talent towards sustainable endeavors. He hopes to combine the two to develop technologies to combat climate change and create sustainable and reliable energy, water, and food solutions for people in developing nations.
“The Fulbright is an incredible opportunity to explore the societal implications of technology and make a difference,” said Wang.
Last summer through Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship program, he conducted action research in Zambia with VITALITE, a social enterprise that distributes solar-powered products to the poor. He has conducted research with the School of Engineering’s Latimer Energy Lab and mapped the effects of high-density traffic areas on residential health as part of the inaugural class of SCU Mapping Health Scholars.
He is chair of the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and chair of the STEM Advisory Representative Committee. He has been an intern at the Center for Sustainability and at Burns & McDonnell, an engineering, architecture, construction, environmental, and consulting solutions firm. He is a tour guide for the School of Engineering, lead for the Solar Regatta project, and has served as a dorm counselor for the Summer Engineering Seminar which helps high school students unfamiliar with engineering learn more about it.
Previously he won a prestigious Udall Scholarship, which honors college sophomores and juniors who exhibit leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or to the environment. He also received a scholarship from the PES Scholarship Plus Initiative from the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), a leading provider of information on power and energy for the betterment of humanity. He was awarded an internship and educational scholarship from Silicon Valley Power (SVP), sponsored by the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Development program to assess and improve the efficiency of the distribution grid in Santa Clara.
He plans to obtain a master’s degree in electrical engineering while in France, and wants to pursue geoengineering or climate-change engineering in the future, with a goal of finding technology solutions to mitigate or possibly reverse the impact of climate change. As part of this initiative, he also is using his time as a Hackworth Grant recipient in the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to explore the ethics of such work—questions like does employing geoengineering improperly encourage continued wasteful behavior, or might such efforts only help developed nations that can afford them?
Fulbright Alternate Awardees
Santa Clara University produced 11 Fulbright semi-finalists in the current academic year. In addition to the four Fulbright finalists, two were named alternates— Gen Kimura ’19, who applied for a teaching Fulbright in Colombia, and Erin Ronald ’19, who applied to conduct research in Sweden.
Beau Scott ’19
Beau Scott is one of only 60 students nationwide chosen for the Coro Fellows program, which develops emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills, and networks to accelerate positive change.
He will be part of a dozen Fellows working as a cohort in San Francisco. Learning in a variety of settings, the fellows participate in seminars, field placements, focus weeks, and projects that will enable them to understand how the different sectors of society work and interact with each other.
“I hope to come out of the Coro Fellowship with a new arsenal of skills, as well as expertise, to combat some of the world's most pressing policy issues,” Scott says. “In particular, I look forward to working with and learning from the many impressive experts and fellows to better serve the needs and wants of my community... I want to be prepared to help make impactful, positive, and tangible change.”
Scott, who aspires to public office, said he was drawn to the Coro program because of its extensive alumni network which includes U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (Coro ’56) of California and Michael Bennet (Coro ’88) of Colorado, as well as its legacy of instilling in fellows invaluable skills for a life of public service.
In 2017, Scott was one of 26 students statewide and the only student from SCU to be selected for the Panetta Congressional Internship program. He spent two weeks at a rigorous academic orientation at the Panetta Institute at Cal State Monterey Bay followed by an 11-week experiential internship in Washington D.C., in the office of a California member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This experience motivated him to continue exploring work in the public sector and led him to apply for the Coro Fellowship.
About the Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. For further information please visit eca.state.gov/fulbright.
About the Coro Fellowship
The Coro Fellows Program develops emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills, and networks to accelerate positive change. It achieves its by honing communication and critical-thinking skills; exposing Fellows to multiple sectors; providing a cohort structure to practice complex decision-making and active feedback; and facilitinga hands-on learning in real-life situations. For more information see www.corofellowship.org/
About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked the No. 1 regional university in the West by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see www.scu.edu.
Deborah Lohse | Media Communications | firstname.lastname@example.org | 408-554-5121
Santa Clara University Fulbright and Coro Awardees: Beau Scott ’19 (Coro winner); Katie O'Neil ’19 (Fulbright finalist); Sammi Bennett ’19 (Fulbright finalist); Gen Kimura ’19 (Fulbright alternate); Erin Ronald ’19 (Fulbright alternate); James Wang ’19 (Fulbright finalist). Not pictured: Arelí Hernández ’19 (Fulbright finalist).