April 19, 2019

Luce Scholars at Fulbright University Vietnam

April 19, 2019

When searching for professional advice, our undergraduate students often hear from renowned experts with decades of experience. Last week, they benefited from engaging with a group of outstanding young leaders working across Asia, who reminded the students that your age does not dictate your potential impact.

Five representatives from the Luce Scholars program, an exchange program that brings 18 young Americans to Asia for a year-long cultural and professional placement, were welcomed to Fulbright. Representing diverse fields from women’s health to painting, the Luce Scholar representatives joined their fellow Scholar and Fulbright’s Director of Strategy, Andrew Maguire, for an afternoon with Fulbright Co-Designers.

First, students joined the scholars for a panel on college and career pathways. Each scholar shared with students their most formative courses, which included a course of Race, Gender and the Environment that influenced Mayra Tenorio’s interest in Women’s Studies, to a Model United Nations course that built John Phillips’ skills in international relations.

Each Scholar acknowledged how much their initial career plans evolved over the course of their college career. For example, Casey Herrick entered Wesleyan University planning to major in Mathematics, but when he found the discipline overly rigid, he found a dynamic and creative outlet in Studio Art and Psychology.

When a student asked how the scholars manage to navigate uncertainty in their pathways of development, Maddie Rita encouraged the students to “pay attention to the moments when going to class or studying a certain subject doesn’t feel like a chore, but a pleasure.”

Those fields or issues, she suggested, are the areas students should dive deeply into. The scholars also noted the power of mentors, both peers and more senior colleagues, but as Kelsey Harpham cautioned, students must also learn when to heed advice and when to recognize that one person’s opinion, no matter how powerful, should not necessarily dictate your path.

In the afternoon, the Luce Scholars enjoyed break-out sessions where they had a chance to share more deeply about their areas of expertise. These simultaneous sessions captured the diversity of Fulbright students’ interests, as they discussed topics on motivations behind art, the intersections of diplomacy, negotiation and environmental protection, and feminism from a sociological and health perspective.

The Luce Scholars were struck by the maturity and engagement of the Co-Designers. As Mr. Phillips shared, “I spent four semesters work as an assistant teacher at Tufts University, a prestigious and competitive undergraduate American university… At Fulbright University Vietnam, I could have been back in Boston in the halls of American academic excellence.

Fulbright students were bright, engaged, and thoughtful. They demonstrated as much confidence as I ever saw in Tufts students, but they fused their confidence with a clear, genuine yearning to learn. They posed critical questions, shared their ideas, and sought advice with humility and candor. Whatever they are being taught, they are learning it well.”

The Luce Scholars Program was launched by the Henry Luce Foundation in 1974 to increase awareness of Asia among future leaders in American society. The fellowship program provides stipends, language training and professional placement for one year in Asia for 15 to 18 scholars each year. This year, the foundation considered nominees from 75 colleges and universities.

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