This fall, the Strauss Center launched its inaugural Next Generation Scholars Program to provide new research and mentorship opportunities to promising undergraduate students.
Students selected for the program are mentored by Strauss Center Distinguished Scholars and are encouraged to engage in either an independent research project or assist in an already on-going project by a professor.
The Next Generation Scholars receive a stipend to support independent research, internships, study abroad and participation in national conferences or international volunteer programs. Additionally, they participate in the Strauss Center Scholars luncheons and interact personally with influential national and international figures in the realm of global policy.
The Next Generation Scholars Program was created to involve undergraduates in the Strauss Centerâ€™s mission to prepare the next generation of leaders to engage in diverse networks and multidisciplinary research in order to address the growing complexity of international issues.
â€œThe Strauss Center has excelled at reaching out to graduate students, and we want to extend these opportunities to undergraduates as well,â€ said Strauss Center Research Coordinator Dr. Catherine Weaver. â€œThis program focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of global affairs and policy and the Strauss Centerâ€™s goal of nurturing a new generation of talent in this dynamic field.â€
Students were nominated by University of Texas faculty members based on academic merit, motivation to partake in policy-relevant research and other outside global experiences that coincide with the Strauss Centerâ€™s mission. Out of the 30 nominees, three students were chosen to participate in the program.
Senior Elaine Sedenberg is an honors biochemistry major and a student in the Deanâ€™s Scholars Honors Program. Her previous experience in scientific research, combined with her interest in biotechnology policy, led her to be chosen as a Next Generation Scholar. She will be mentored by Dr. Fred Chang, whose expertise is in cyber security and information technology.
Sedenberg has completed an undergraduate thesis in synthetic organic chemistry, had her contributions published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, worked in research labs in the Space and Geophysics Department and received a National Science Foundation grant for organic chemistry research in Strasbourg, France. Sedenberg works in the UT Office of Technology Commercialization and wants to focus on the connection between science and technology in her future policy studies. She believes the Strauss Center fellowship will help her to pursue the topic in-depth.
â€œThere are very few policy classes available for undergraduates at UT and undergrad science policy classes are non-existent,â€ Sedenberg said. â€œThis fellowship will not only help me to meet individuals in the field and learn about a specific topic of interest but it also allows me to demonstrate my commitment to policy as a career.â€
Senior Christine Carcano is focusing on human biology with a concentration in problems of developing countries in order to study the scientific, social and environmental issues of public health. She is involved in the Global Medical Training and Global Health Project on campus and has traveled to Nicaragua, Mozambique and South Africa to study the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in these countries. Carcano hopes her experience in the program will better prepare her for her future goals of joining the PeaceCorps and attending medical school as well as attaining a Masters in Public Health.
â€œGrowing up in the Rio Grande Valley and observing the parallels between the region and developing areas in regards to healthcare heavily influenced my desire to pursue a future in global health,â€ said Carcano.
In her fellowship, Carcano plans to research HIV/AIDS and international development to use healthcare to improve quality of life and regional development in places that need it the most. She will be mentored by Dr. Joshua Busby, an expert in the fields of climate change, HIV/AIDs, development, U.S. foreign policy and global governance.
â€œI hope to gain out of my participation in the program an increased awareness of the global community and the opportunity to explore solutions to issues that plague the international world,â€ Carcano said.
Junior Mary Lynn Bunkley is a history major with emphasis on cultural diplomacy and diplomatic history. She is interested in researching the effects of foreign policy decisions and foreign aid distribution systems. She has previously worked at the Strauss Center as both an intern and research assistant, interned at the U.S. House of Representatives and studied abroad in France as part of a cultural immersion program. Bunkley hopes her participation in the program will provide her with the guidance and knowledge she needs in order to pursue a career in diplomacy. Bunkley will be mentored by Dr. Mark Lawerence, an expert in the history of U.S. foreign relations, decolonization and both the Vietnam and Cold wars.
â€œOpportunities like this are important for undergraduates because they allow us to explore our interest in various fields and they connect us with successful professionals in the areas that we are interested in,â€ said Bunkley. â€œThis program opens up doors for enterprising students to see how their education at UT can prepare them for their careers and allows them to use the outstanding faculty resources at our university to carry out their dreams.â€