Prepare, Engage, Reflect, Research – Global Scholars in the Making

Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, Director of Pre-Health Programs, shares about The Jennings Family International Summer Research Scholarship, which offers every summer four to five undergraduate students an opportunity to engage in a global internship and research.


El Salvador, Dominican Republic, India, Bolivia, Chile, South Africa, Turkey, Ghana – these are a few of the destinations where Larry and Katherine Jennings International Summer Scholarship has taken Loyola students since summer of 2014. Larry and Katherine Jennings have generously created an opportunity that blends spirit of independence and adventure with responsibility toward the global community. Once again, I had the privilege to experience vicariously the sense of wonder and joy when I received the travel pictures and update from Alyson Forgione,’19, Marisa Gochie,’19, Marie Louis-Charles, ’19, Sierra Quimby, ’18, and Jillian Skerchak,’19. Alyson volunteered at a special education school in Thailand, Marisa learned about renewable energy in Costa Rica, Marie focused in photojournalism in Nepal, Sierra practiced her speech-pathology skills in Ghana, and Jillian learned about health care in Nepal.

I have had the privilege to mentor three generations of Jennings scholars through their entire cycle of learning that peaks at the summer travel experience itself but is surely not limited to it. In fact, I have come to discover that a genuine engagement with one’s experience calls for intentional planning, for reflection, and, as Jennings scholarship has it, for research. I have found that Jennings scholarship uniquely prepares the students to grow in their awareness of their personal and professional goals as well as in their knowledge of prominent issues that shape the twenty-first-century world. These scholarship winners head out on their own to join an internship program of their choice. They have the freedom to choose their destination and their program, and in their application they articulate personal and professional reasons behind their choice. Dr. André Colombat, Dean of Loyola’s International Programs, and I, work with students to make sure that the programs are of high value to the student and trustworthy. Over the years, the Jennings students have placed with such programs as Child Family Health International, Global Crossroad, CIEE, and Projects Abroad.

A careful deliberation of one’s motives and goals creates a foundation for the students to begin their journey before their plane departs for its distant destination. Importantly a mindful preparation deepens the student’s commitment from adventuresome exploration to ethically rooted engagement with the host country and its people. Nearly all programs that students use require pre-boarding training in ethics and cultural competence. Additionally, all Jennings scholars with a pre-health background complete University of Minnesota’s training, Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety. The motto of Child Family Health International captures the wisdom that Jennings scholarship also aims at: “Let the world change you.” It has. Students come back with stories of children and adults whose kindness has amazed them and several have made fast friends with their home-stay families. One of the Jennings Scholars of summer 2016, Rachael Martines, even returned to celebrate the New Year with her Guatemalan host family and has plans to see them soon again.

This year’s Jennings scholars have now met with me to reflect on their experience and we are preparing a slideshow to share over the dinner with Larry and Katherine Jennings. This will be an opportunity for Alyson, Marisa, Marie, Sierra, and Jillian to learn from each other and the Jennings family, experienced travelers themselves. We have already moved to the research side of the experience, for the scholarship also calls for a submission of a presentation or poster proposal for Loyola’s Undergraduate Research Colloquium in April. This year’s topics will range from emissions trading in Costa Rica to barriers in early autism intervention in Ghana. Previous years’ projects have provided insight to telehealth in Bolivia, physician shortage in India, and Turkey’s presidential election in 2014. One could say that intentional reflection supports the students in their personal growth through the global encounters, whereas the research project helps them to deepen their professional capacity and purpose.

Global fellowship and cultural competency is built upon a long-term cultivation of one’s engagement with new cultures and people of the world. Just as I have done in the past years, I have already asked this year’s Jennings students this question: “How about you apply for a Fulbright scholarship as your next step? Would it not be great to do research or teach English abroad for a whole year?” Many of the past Jennings students have already said yes and many more have returned to deepen their understanding of their international experience in their graduate school applications and graduate studies.

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