A star of hope

Katrina Alden ’17 is taking her interest in agriculture and sustainable development to Malaysia, where she will teach English as a Fulbright fellow. Her classmate, Paige Brnger ’17, also a Fulbright award winner, hopes to incorporate the arts into teaching high school students in the Slovak Republic. Watson Fellow Kelvin Kweku Ampem-Darko ’17 intends to study caregiving in Zimbabwe, Bolivia and India while fellow Watson honoree Liam Grace-Flood ’17 immerses himself in entrepreneurial “maker” cultures in the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Tanzania and Austria.

Like every member of the just-graduated Class of 2017, these young women and men are leaving Wheaton to pursue exciting opportunities. Their plans underscore the global interests and impact of our graduates (as well as the many competitive national and international awards that Wheaton students win). This international focus is not surprising. The members of the Class of 2017 represent nearly 40 countries, and students who come from outside the United States account for 18 percent of Wheaton’s enrollment. The incoming Class of 2021 promises to continue the global nature of the campus community.
Among the students who will begin their Wheaton adventure this fall will be the first recipient of the Wheaton International Refugee Scholarship. This individual’s family fled war in their home country to resettle in the United States in recent years. Despite the challenges of adjusting to American life, this student has excelled in high school. To preserve the student’s right to confidentiality, I will say only that this individual will benefit from Wheaton’s outstanding liberal arts education as we will benefit from this person’s contributions to our community.

The interest in this scholarship far exceeded anything we could have imagined. Well over 1,000 people applied for this award, from many countries torn apart by violence and poverty. Like the eventual recipient, the most-qualified students demonstrated remarkable resilience and promise in their academic and personal achievements against incredible odds. Dean of Admission Grant Gosselin told me that deciding on the recipient for the award was among the most difficult decisions that he has ever faced.

In many ways, the establishment of this scholarship reaffirmed Wheaton’s commitment to providing students with a liberal arts education that is international in outlook as well as focused on the interests of the individual. Our college community—of alumnae/i, parents and friends as well as students, faculty and staff—spans the globe. And through their efforts, we are making a difference in the world. One need look only at the alumnae/i who have been honored at Commencement during the past three years to see many examples—from Ligia Bonetti Du-Breil ’89, who runs an international business from the Dominican Republic, and Faith Nondumiso Khanyile ’91, who promotes women entrepreneurs in Africa, to Lisa Szarkowski ’90, who coordinates UNICEF USA’s emergency response to major disasters around the globe, and Thomas Sanderson ’92, who combats international terrorism and crime through research and on-site investigation.

For me, the incredible interest in Wheaton College from every part of the world underscores the fact that American higher education is among our country’s best and most effective ways of engaging with the world. This past year, United States colleges and universities enrolled more than 1 million international students. I know from my own work in Africa the way in which American higher education is viewed from abroad—as a beacon of hope, as a center for ideas that create opportunities for a better life, and as a source of freedom through the power of ideas.
I am incredibly proud of all that Wheaton contributes to the world through the amazing contributions of the members of our community, and I hope you share that sense of pride. Wheaton College shines brightly as a source of hope and a commitment to making the world a better place.