By Jane Haseman
GS students Tamta Arakhamia, Brigid Connelly, and William Scott have been chosen as 2017 Presidential Global Fellows. Funded with a seed grant by Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, these fellowships provide first-year undergraduates with a unique opportunity to engage with critical global issues by funding each fellow’s participation in a Columbia summer study abroad program.
Arakhamia, an international student from the Republic of Georgia, will spend her summer in Venice. Before coming to GS, Arakhamia spent the years after high school taking care of her mother—who was ill—and often working multiple jobs to support her family. During this time, she represented her country in the European Youth Parliament, and later became the head of an educational agency which helps Georgians from rural or underprivileged areas acquire an international education.
“It felt as though I was a bridge connecting young people to their dreams, and I am now looking forward to following my own dreams by serving as a ‘global ambassador’ for Columbia this summer,” she said.
“I was in Israel for entirely non-religious purposes—to visit a friend—yet a somewhat traumatic turn of events catapulted me into an experience I can only describe as ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ in nature,” Connelly said. “From that point on, I found myself guided toward exploring how different people navigate the most intimate, painful, and loving parts of their life.”
Scott, who worked as a union carpenter in the rebuilding of One World Trade Center, and subsequently at an addiction rehabilitation facility, is headed to Beijing to study Chinese.
“The rehabilitation facility I worked at believed that learning about the patients, their lives and their backgrounds, helped to establish a connection that led to a greater recovery rate,” he said. “The best way to affect change is through intrapersonal and situational understanding.”
Scott is interested in behavioral economics, and believes that studying large countries with diverse economic landscapes is crucial to developing globally beneficial economic policies and programs.
Each fellowship covers program fees, airfare, and living expenses, and provides specialized orientation and advising to assist fellows in leveraging their experiences abroad to enhance their future personal and professional plans.
“While we may be scattered across the globe over the summer, I feel that the intentionality, excitement, and engagement exhibited by the cohort is a unifying principle that we will all benefit from,” Connelly said.