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2018 Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars Announced                 



November 19, 2016.  The US-Ireland Alliance selected the 12 members of the 2018 Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars following interviews held Washington, D.C.

Members of the class include a military veteran; a young man working for the City of Flint; a young woman working to combat food insecurity in Kansas; a quarterback for an NCAA Division 1 football team; a future doctor who seeks to provide quality healthcare services to transgender people; and a future economist who serves as a research assistant in the White House Office the National Drug Control Policy.

The scholarship program was created nearly 20 years ago by Trina Vargo, founder of the US-Ireland Alliance.  This year, the nationwide competition attracted 323 applicants (up 14% from the previous year) for the 12 scholarships named in honor of the former Maine Senator’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process.  Recipients are chosen on the basis of academic distinction, leadership and service and spend a year of post-graduate study at institutions of higher learning in Ireland.

Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, hosted a reception at her Washington, D.C. residence. In welcoming the finalists, Ambassador Anderson said she has been privileged to meet with many graduates of this program across the United States and to see the great success they have enjoyed, “and to hear how much they feel they benefitted from their time in Ireland.”  She added,  “I have no doubt this year’s class will continue the high standards that have been a hallmark of this programme since its inception.”

Carolina Chavez, the new Director of the Mitchell Scholarship Program, worked previously for ten years on the Fulbright program at the Department of State.  Chavez noted that in all of her experience, “I can tell you that the Mitchell Scholar network is exceptionally strong.  Our alumni are involved and important to each other, to the Program, and to Ireland.” 

Candidate interviews were held at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Members of the selection committee included Jon Brestoff Parker, a Mitchell Scholar and CEO and co-founder of Symmetry Therapeutics, a startup pharmaceutical company developing more effective anti-obesity treatments; Frank Bruni, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist and the author of three bestselling books, including Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania; Kathleen Claussen, a Mitchell Scholar and Assistant General Counsel, at the Office of the United States Trade Representative; Adam Grant, Wharton’s top-rated professor and the author of two New York Times bestselling books: Originals which explores how individuals champion new ideas and leaders fight groupthink; and Give and Take, which examines why helping others drives our success; Michael Lonergan, Deputy Head of Mission of the Irish Embassy; Gerry McCrory, an entrepreneur currently involved in two start-up companies including Scoir, a social media platform designed to improve the college admissions process; Bob Mauro, Director of the Irish Institute at Boston College; Ethan McSweeny, an internationally acclaimed director based in New York City, where his work includes the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Awards) and the premiere of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.

Current sponsor of the Mitchell Scholarship program include Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills, Morgan Stanley, CRH and the American Ireland Fund.

Ms. Vargo noted that the Mitchell has been at the forefront of innovations in the scholarship interviewing process, including the introduction of Skype interviews, early stage video interviews in partnership with the Irish company Sonru, and assisting the many applicants who don’t win a Mitchell:  “There are numerous applicants who are incredibly talented.  While we can’t offer them all a scholarship, we recognize the major effort entailed in simply applying, and we wanted to find ways to help increase their opportunities.  Years ago, we began the process of sharing their information with the universities on the island and we know of many applicants who went on to study in Ireland and Northern Ireland by other means.  This year, we have initiated a process whereby the resumes of applicants may be shared with our major sponsors.   This is a win-win given that recruitment of top talent is a priority for many companies.”

Those selected today will begin their studies in Ireland in September 2017.  

George J. Mitchell Scholarship, Class of 2018 

Joel Arnold graduated from Michigan State University with a double major in Social Relations/Policy and Urban and Regional Planning.  A native of Flint, Michigan, Joel is currently a Blight Management Analyst for the City of Flint and administers the Love Your Block Program, which provides residents and local organizations with no-cost resources to perform major beautification efforts.  At MSU, Joel led and participated in countless community service initiatives but his greatest achievement was founding what became the largest and most active chapter of LiveWorkDetroit!, a program that works to stem brain drain in Michigan by encouraging college students to move to the state’s struggling urban centers.  Joel is also an active musician and served as a member and squad leader of the Spartan Marching Band during college and currently performs as a member of the Flint Symphonic Wind Ensemble, a community band.  He will study Urban Policy Stream at University College Dublin.

Margaret Born is a senior at Michigan State University, double majoring in Arabic and Comparative Cultures and Politics.  Born to American aid workers in South Africa, Margaret grew up in Mozambique and moved to Wyoming for high school.  Interested in issues of diversity and inclusion, she founded Project Nur at MSU in 2013, a student-led organization focused on combating Islamophobia on campus.  She currently serves as Caucus Chair and Leader for Inclusion on the Student Senate and is a member of the Madison Academic Diversity Initiative, where she works to develop cultural competency among incoming freshman.  Off campus, Margaret has volunteered with young children, local families and refugees.  She also served as a Legislative intern for a Michigan state representative focusing on women’s rights.  Margaret aspires to work on international refugee policy and she will study International Development, Environment, and Conflict at Dublin City University.

Theodore L. Caputi is a senior majoring in Mathematics and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Interested in the factors that contribute to drug and alcohol addiction since high school, Theodore is currently a White House research assistant in the Office of National Drug Control Policy where he conducts analysis of the nation’s drug prevention and treatment strategies. Theodore has published several papers in peer-reviewed journals. He is the only undergraduate researcher ever to be named a Policy Fellow at the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute. At Penn, he is the founder and president of PennDAPA, which teaches students strategies for safe alcohol consumption, and the Penn Leadership Training Institute, which engages undergraduate volunteers from Philadelphia universities to provide free, weekly leadership training classes to middle and high school students in underserved areas. A Pennsylvania native, Theodore serves on local, state, and national boards that address substance use issues, including the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission since 2011, and recently interned in the office of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, where he created analytical reports evaluating the opioid epidemic. He will study Public Health Promotion at University College Cork.

Donovan Hicks is a recent graduate of Wofford College where he double majored in Government and Finance. A native of South Carolina, Donovan became attuned to the inequities in his community at an early age.  As a college freshman, he began a long-term internship with South Carolina Legal Services, providing legal assistance to persons well below the poverty line.  In 2014, he created Student-to-Student, a mentoring organization that partners potential first-generation college students from his alma mater high school with Wofford students to great success.  Donovan also served as Student Body Vice President and as a Student Advocate on Wofford’s Judicial Commission.  Donovan is a Gates Millennium Scholar, Bonner Scholar, and a Truman Scholar and recently wrapped up a research stay at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.  An aspiring civil rights attorney, Donovan is currently a Federal Analyst at Deloitte.  He will study Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict at Trinity College Dublin.

Meghan Hind is a senior at Harvard majoring in Neurobiology.  Her interests lie in the brain circuitry behind decision-making and how beliefs and behaviors affect the decision-making process.  She has organized and executed several wellness programs for her Harvard classmates, most recently serving as the Director of Workshops for LifeHack Improvitas, which brought prominent figures to campus to discuss self-improvement.  She also served as the Director of Harvard’s Bureau of Study Counsel's Student Liaisons, which provided non-clinical advising to students related to academic-life balance.  Throughout her time at Harvard, Meghan has mentored young children through the DREAM Project, a Boston organization that pairs children in affordable housing with local college students. This summer, she conducted research on stress in undergraduates as a Herchel Smith Summer Research Fellow.  She will study Values and Knowledge at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Peter Kiernan is a senior majoring in Political Science at Columbia University.  Raised on Long Island, Pete joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after high school and became the youngest Marine to serve in the elite Special Operations Command in Afghanistan.  After six years of service, Pete enrolled at Columbia where he founded the Ivy League Veterans Council, a not-for-profit dedicated to provide veterans equal access to top colleges and universities.  He also founded Team Columbia, an organization that raises money for charities supporting gold-star military families. His advocacy has raised nearly $1 million for veteran charities.  In his spare time, Pete volunteers as an Assistant Coach on Columbia’s Heavyweight Crew Team.  He will study Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin.

Miranda Klugesherz obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Communication Studies from Hastings College and is currently a Master’s degree student in Communications Studies at Kansas State University. Concerned with food insecurity for much of her life, she currently serves as the Chair of the Junction City Food Policy Council, which advises the City Commission on matters related to the local food system.  She is also an Executive Member of Live Well Geary County, which works to close the “food gaps” by providing local families access to healthy, affordable food.  As a college senior, Miranda served as the Director of Food4Thought, a student-led organization that provides food to elementary students during weekends and holidays.  At Hastings, Miranda was part of its nationally ranked competitive speech and debate team and currently volunteers as a coach for the Kansas State University Forensics Team.  She will study Social Policy at University College Cork.

Elizabeth (Ellie) Sell is a senior Chemistry student at Princeton University and an Emergency Medical Technician with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad.  As a research assistant at Children’s National Medical Center, Ellie used data from a trauma registry and GIS mapping to identify neighborhoods where certain types of injuries were more prevalent, giving her fellow health educators information to better hone their outreach efforts.  With a grant from Princeton, Ellie recently led a Trans Healthcare trip to New York City where students investigated the relationship between gender expression and how it affects access to healthcare.  Ellie also received a $20,000 grant to conduct an international service trip to Ghana to explore the issue of global electronic waste at Agbogbloshie.  Ellie is a Diversity Peer Educator and has promoted inclusion, tolerance and service through various campus organizations. An aspiring physician, she will study Gender, Sexuality and Culture at University College Dublin. 

Lacey Smith is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she majored Health and Human Sciences.  A native of the Los Angeles area, Lacey is currently working in Haiti as a Global Health Fellow with Medical Missionaries, a US-based volunteer organization.  During college, she volunteered countless hours as a clinic assistant at the Venice Family Clinic, a clinic for low-income residents, and served as an emergency medical technician for LMU.  She conducted research on waterborne illness in Thailand, work she continues in Haiti.  Lacey is an alto/mezzo soprano and performed throughout college as part of the LMU Theater Program.  She will study Immunology and Global Health at Maynooth University.

Tyler Swafford is a senior at Eastern Kentucky University majoring in Globalization and International Affairs.  He is the starting quarterback of the Division I EKU football team and serves on the EKU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as the liaison between the team and the EKU administration. He has twice received the Ohio Valley Conference Academic Medal of Honor for having the highest GPA (4.0) on the football team. In the summer of 2015, Tyler and his teammates traveled to Haiti and built a water purification system for an orphanage.  He continues to serve the local Kentucky community, most recently helping to resettle a Syrian refugee family in Lexington.  Tyler spent May of 2016 in Austria attending the Salzburg Global Citizenship Seminar where he completed an independent study project on the evolution of human rights law.  An aspiring human rights attorney, he will study Geopolitics and Global Economy at University College Dublin.

May Treuhaft-Ali is a senior at Wesleyan University majoring in Theater Studies. With a belief that theater has the power to question and deconstruct systems of power, May has written and directed plays for Wesleyan’s Theater Department and Second Stage.  Her plays were selected twice by the LA-based Blank Theatre Company’s Young Playwrights Festival, a national competition for young writers.  In 2014 and 2015, she was selected to attend the Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwrights Conference and recently served as an apprentice to the director of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, an off-Broadway play that was selected as a NYT Critic’s Pick.  She is the Founder and Coordinator of AnyStage at Wesleyan, a play development program that provides resources such as table reads and workshop productions for student playwrights. May hopes to continue theater studies in Ireland.   She will study Theatre and Performance at Trinity College Dublin.

Kathleen White is a graduate of Manhattan College and holds a degree in History and Peace Studies. A social justice advocate, Kathleen joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college and served as Outreach Coordinator for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth where she worked on abolishing juvenile life without parole.  Her devotion to criminal justice reform began in college when she participated in a new Criminal Justice Ethics program on Rikers Island, where she studied criminal justice theories alongside inmates and debated possible reforms. Kathleen served as President of Just Peace, Manhattan College’s human rights and social action organization, and most recently worked as a Job Coach and Case Manager for Jersey City, helping residents returning home from prison reintegrate into their communities.  Kathleen will study Sociology at University College Cork.