Ten Women Named Luce Scholars

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time magazine, to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. The foundation recently announced its 2012-13 class of Luce Scholars. Eighteen Luce Scholars were named and, of these, 10 are women.

To be eligible for the Luce Scholars Program, candidates must be U.S. citizens who would not have reached their 30th birthday by July 1st of the year they enter the program. Candidates must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree or reasonably expect to receive that degree by July 1st of the year they enter the program. The intent of the program is to provide an immersion experience in Asia for an outstanding group of young Americans. Those who already have significant experience in Asia or Asian studies are not eligible.

Since none of the scholars – by definition – has a deep background in Asian affairs, the program year commences with an orientation designed to give an overview of contemporary Asia and address practical concerns about living in Asia that will assist the scholars in making the most of their placements. The Luce Foundation convenes this orientation program in late June in New York City, where Luce Scholars have an opportunity to meet with some leading scholars and professionals who have made Asia the focus for their careers. After the New York sessions, the scholars travel as a group to San Francisco, where they participate in country-specific orientation at the offices of The Asia Foundation.

The scholars spend July and August studying the language of the placement country. Individual placements generally commence in September. These assignments, where the scholars work alongside Asian colleagues, are the heart of the Luce Scholars Program.

Economy class air transportation is provided for all travel required by the program. A monthly stipend and applicable housing and cost-of-living allowances are paid for by the foundation Medical and travel insurance are provided for all scholars and their accompanying spouses.

(L to R): Aimee Gotway Bailey, Lauren Buckley, Madelon Case, Ana Maria Cruz, Amber Koonce, Erin McGonagle, Andrea Nieves, Abigail Seldin, Renata Sheppard, and Jennifer Zelnick

Here are biographies, provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, of the 10 women selected:

Aimee Gotway Bailey grew up in a small farming community in rural Illinois, nestled between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. After a memorable, Tom Sawyer-esque childhood, she set out to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She defined her education in two major ways: by selecting courses across disciplines and by becoming actively involved in research since her first semester of college. By graduation, Aimee had contributed to an experimental chemistry group studying hydrogen storage, an experimental materials group investing thin films to coat implants to enhance biocompatibility, a theoretical materials group investigating the mechanical behavior of a candidate material for the containment walls of the ITER fusion reactor, and an applied physics group engineering photonic crystal devices capable of remote chemical detection. Aimee continued her education in the physics department of Imperial College London, where she completed her doctoral dissertation on the simulation of soft matter systems. Applications of her research include flow properties of petrochemicals, microorganism motility, and the organization of intra-cellular components. Since completing her thesis, she spent a few months as a freelance scientist before starting a post-doctoral position researching biochemical networks at the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (FOM Institute AMOLF) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. There, Aimee investigated the Ras biochemical network, which is a group of proteins implicated in cancerous cells. In the fall of 2010, she moved to Washington, D.C., for a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For the fellowship, she is hosted by the Solar Energy Technologies Program at the U.S. Department of Energy, where she is researching the process of technology evolution. Insight from her research will guide billions of dollars of federal research and development investments in energy generation technologies. In her free time, Aimee enjoys traveling, brewing beer, making stained glass windows, and spending time with her family, friends, and pit bull mix, Flora.

Lauren Buckley grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her father and two older brothers. She attends the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she expects to graduate in May 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, and French. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry after working abroad, and is particularly interested in global public health. Though she entered college with too many interests to list, her freshman chemistry professor—Mahesh Mahanthappa— inspired her to enter scientific research. In his laboratory, she developed syntheses of new biodegradable polymers. In fall 2009, she joined Professor Cox’s lab to explore biological research and study the DNA repair mechanism of a phenomenally radiation resistant bacterium. After discovering that she wanted to study disease, Ms. Buckley joined Professor Strieter’s research group, where she uses chemical tools to decipher intricacies of the DNA damage response. In summer 2010, she interned with Professor Fujimori at UC–San Francisco through the Amgen Scholars Program, conducting research on a project related to work in the Strieter group. Though she dedicates much of her energy to research, she also loves teaching and communicating science. Specifically, she volunteered at WiCell Research Camp, led Science Olympiad events at Edgewood High School, performed large chemistry demonstrations at UW-Madison’s annual Engineering Expo, taught hands-on science lessons at Biocore Science Nights in Madison elementary schools, helped Boy and Girl Scouts earn chemistry badges, and performed in a scientific play by Carl Djerassi. She tutors chemistry and serves as president of UW-Madison’s American Chemical Society. Aside from science and language, she loves outdoors adventuring, dancing, volleyball and creative writing. She has a severe case of wanderlust, which leads her to explore as many parts of the world as possible.

Madelon Case grew up exploring the mountains, forests, and deserts of the Pacific Northwest. A botany research program in Idaho at the age of 15 inspired a passion for plant ecology and conservation biology that has guided her academic interests ever since. She went on to pursue a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. In her time as an undergraduate, her interest in ecology has taken her to spruce forests in Maine, coral reefs off the coast of Panama, and the mountain meadows in Oregon where she studied the effects of gopher mounds on plant communities for her senior thesis. She is also fascinated by theoretical approaches to biology and has enjoyed creating mathematical models of forest succession and the evolution of the mimic octopus for classes at Princeton. Outside of her academic work, Maddy is an avid hiker and rock climber. As a student at Princeton, she has found many ways to practice leading and teaching others, from tutoring fellow students in the Writing Center to training new leaders for freshman outdoor orientation trips as a Leader Trainer in the Outdoor Action program. She also enjoys writing creative nonfiction, doing crossword puzzles, and cooking meals for dozens of people at the Two Dickinson Street Co-op.

Ana Maria Cruz is the daughter of immigrants from Latin America. She grew up in a household where the goal was to achieve the American Dream, yet the daily struggle was to place food on the table. At Barnard College she became dedicated to improving the quality of life of working families in New York and gradually came to realize that one solution could be the labor movement. As an Urban Studies major with a concentration in Sociology, she took courses that examined different aspects of living in urban America, including healthcare, politics, education, and social movements. While conducting fieldwork for her thesis on immigrants achieving workplace justice, she helped undocumented immigrants find their voice in the workplace through education, collective action, and mobilization. Soon after graduating from Barnard, she interned in the political department of 32BJ SEIU, the Building Service Workers Union, working on New York City legislative campaigns affecting the working family. She was soon hired by the union as a public relations and communications assistant; in this capacity she works with a team of spokespeople and local reporters on developing stories about the members of the union. She is currently working on her master’s degree in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Her new yet familiar goal is to create a community organization that brings together different racial and ethnic groups to support positive legislation that improves working conditions and provides support for the working family.

Amber Koonce, a Charlotte, North Carolina, native, was called to serve as an activist at an early age. Upon matriculating to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), her commitment to amplifying the voices of marginalized groups within structures of power led her to pursue a B.A. in Public Policy and Cultural studies, with a minor in Entrepreneurship. While at UNC, Amber has advocated for a minority and elderly neighborhood against gentrification, assisted a policy professor with the creation of an electronic welfare system in North Carolina, and spearheaded the creation of a policy proposal to socio-economically integrate local schools. Currently, Amber is the youngest individual appointed by the Governor to serve as a board member for the North Carolina Council for Women. In this capacity, she works to project the consequences proposed legislations will have on the status of women throughout the state. These involvements earned Amber the Girl Scout’s Young Woman of Distinction Award in 2010 and the Pearson Prize for Higher Education in 2011. Amber’s most rewarding role has been as a mentor for incarcerated youth. For three years, Amber has led a student group to regularly work with incarcerated juveniles in Durham, North Carolina. Her concern for the plight of these youth prompted her to work with international juvenile detention centers located in Ghana and Scotland. Amber is also the founder and executive director of BeautyGap, a non-profit organization that distributes dolls of color to girls of color internationally. BeautyGap earned her recognition as “The Social Entrepreneur” in Glamour Magazine’s 2011 Top Ten College Women list, and also as one of the nation’s “Top 25 Young Futurists” by The Root. An aspiring juvenile attorney, Amber aims to gain more knowledge of Asian juvenile rights and continue to raise global awareness of children’s needs.

Erin McGonagle will graduate from Williams College in June 2012 with a double major in Chemistry and Studio Art. She is dedicated to pursuing a career in medicine, and has a particular interest in pediatric medicine, sparked by her time spent as a volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado and her passion for working with children. At Williams, Erin developed her interest in independent research in organic chemistry and biochemistry, pursuing an honors thesis in biochemistry as a part of Amy Gehring’s laboratory. In summer 2010, Erin served as a research assistant in Dr. Stephen Zderic’s laboratory at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, designing and executing a project that examined the physiological effects of swim stress on the murine bladder. She is first author on the resulting paper, ―Platform Swim Stress Results in an Altered Voiding Phenotype in Male Mice,‖ expected for publication in the Journal of Neurourology and Urodynamics in 2012. Outside of the laboratory, Erin has found balance in her academics as a Studio Art major, with a particular interest in charcoal drawing and performance art. She also has a commitment to community service, and has served for four years as a volunteer and two years as president for the Williams Initiative for Student Health in Elementary Schools (WISHES). Raised in Colorado, Erin has a love for the outdoors and especially the mountains. She was a member of the Women’s Varsity Soccer team during her freshman and sophomore years at Williams, and with the team, she travelled to the 2008 Final Four and the 2009 Elite Eight in the NCAA Division III competition. Erin enjoys hiking, skiing, yoga, and running half-marathons. When home, she enjoys spending time with her parents, two younger sisters, two dogs, and three cats.

Andrea Nieves is currently a fellow at the Fair Trial Initiative in Durham, North Carolina. Andrea is a Puerto Rican American born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the oldest daughter of a single parent, she saw the difficulty her mother had in providing for her children. Determined to gain exposure to the larger world around her, she worked her way through high school and won a scholarship to spend a gap year abroad in Quito, Ecuador, between high school and college. Andrea graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Occidental College in 2007 with a B.A. in American Studies. During college, she studied art history in Siena, Italy, and mentored at-risk middle school students in an after school program. She was inspired to attend law school so that she would have the power to stand up in a courtroom and speak on behalf of people of color living in poverty. Andrea attended New York University School of Law on a full scholarship from the NYU Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights. While in law school, Andrea dedicated herself to fighting for social justice for low-income people of color and youth. She represented immigrant youth facing deportation and children in the juvenile delinquency system. She also assisted with the state habeas appeal of an Alabama death row inmate and a writ of certiorari for a juvenile serving a life without the possibility of parole sentence. These experiences led her to a post-graduate fellowship with the Fair Trial Initiative, where she represents indigent clients facing the death penalty at trial. Andrea balances her capital work with as much singing, dancing, and laughing as possible.

Abigail Seldin is currently pursuing a D.Phil. in social anthropology at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. Seldin recently spent the 2011 calendar year in Albuquerque pursuing ethnographic study of a new fringe religious movement in the American Southwest and their heritage claims. Prior to Oxford, Seldin graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania with an M.Sc. and B.A. in anthropology (simultaneous award) in May 2009. While in Philadelphia, Seldin pursued a three-year fieldwork project with a group of Lenape Native Americans who had been maintaining their heritage in secret for the previous two centuries. This work resulted in the three-year gallery exhibition ―Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Co-curated by Seldin and the Chief of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, the exhibition is the first to be co- curated by Native people at the Penn Museum, and one of the first such curatorial collaborations in the United States. The exhibition’s popularity prompted the Penn Museum to extend its initial twelve month run by two years before redeveloping it as a traveling exhibition. ―Fulfilling a Prophecy garnered significant press across local, national, and international markets, yielding more than 23 million impressions. As a direct result of the exhibition, the Lenape Nation has enjoyed heightened visibility and an increased number of partnerships, including recognition in the Charter of the United Nations.

Renata Sheppard is an interdisciplinary dance artist with formal training in theatre, music, and visual arts. She creates work for both stage and screen while her research in dance and technology focuses on the design of interactive systems. She began a dialogue between dance and technology creating experimental Dance for Camera films and working as a researcher/collaborator from 2007-2009 in the Tele- immersive Environments lab at the University of Illinois, Department of Computer Science. There she developed a unique, technology-based dance composition course and presented the Tele-immersive System internationally in Germany, Canada, and throughout the U.S. She recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy at the Virtual Reality and Multi Media Park’s (VR&MMP) Allied Sciences Arts Lab. She was invited to remain at VR&MMP as the Director and Choreographer of FraMESHift, now in development for an evening length show for summer 2012. Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), which she studied at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies in New York, is fundamental to her teaching and choreography and central to her framework for interactive design. She is spearheading Reviva!, a workshop series that will make Arts Enter in Cape Charles, Virginia, an international summer hub of activity and exchange. She continues developing performance and research with international collaborators including the Liverpool-based Planet Arts Exchange. Supported by various funding including the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the U.S./Italy Fulbright Commission, and the U.S. Embassy, her choreography has been presented throughout the United States and in Italy, Germany, and India. She has performed in the works of Chamecki/Lerner, Merce Cunningham, and David Parker/Sara Hook among others. Her dance film, The Wait of Gravity, was an official selection at the 2011 San Francisco Dance Film Festival and New York’s SLAM Motion in Media Dance Film Festival among others.

Jennifer Zelnick is a senior at Haverford College majoring in Anthropology with a Spanish minor and a Gender and Sexuality Studies concentration. She spent the past summer in Jogjakarta and Denpasar, Indonesia, conducting ethnographic research for her thesis on Bali’s HIV positive community. Jennifer thrived in a diverse work environment and learned through collaborative leadership. Furthermore, her work enabled her to explore and challenge the binary of pure academic work versus community involvement. As an avid language learner, Jennifer values the opportunity to communicate with people in their native language (as she does in English, Spanish, and basic Bahasa Indonesia). As an active member of the Haverford community, she seeks to bridge her scholastic and social interests in order to engage positively and enact change. At Haverford she chairs Survivors of Assault and Rape (SOAR), a student-run support group that also focuses on education, outreach, and advocacy. As the leader of SOAR she has gained invaluable experience working with survivors of sexual violence and has come to appreciate issues of social marginalization from a multitude of perspectives. This work has influenced Jennifer’s academic pursuits, as is evident in her thesis topic. In the future, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Anthropology, focusing specifically on the intersectionality of gender and sexuality, marginality, and agency. Jennifer hopes to work within academia while deconstructing the ivory tower that so often dominates higher education.

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