Religion Major Wins Prestigious Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship
In her three years as a Nebraska Wesleyan University student Jessica Danson has studied abroad in Mexico, Germany and Estonia. Add to that her service trips to Nicaragua, Malawi, and Guatemala, and a conference in Canada, and you have to assume she’s headed for a career in international affairs.
A prestigious Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship will send her to a Scandinavian country next year where she will study global governance. In December she will learn if her scholarship will take her to Finland, Sweden or Denmark.
The Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship is the world’s largest privately funded international scholarship program. Nearly 800 scholarships are awarded each year to students in 70 countries. The scholarship provides funding for graduate school as well as lodging and transportation. Danson is the third Nebraska Wesleyan student in four years to win a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.
“I read the world as I would a book, studying its ever-unfolding plot, its lustrous settings, and most importantly its characters both major and minor,” Danson wrote in her scholarship application. “I never pass up an opportunity to learn about other cultures by experience and, in turn, show my culture to others through my actions.”
Danson is a religion major and Spanish minor. She quickly admits that her studies are often misunderstood with people assuming she wants to become a pastor or nun.
“Religion is more than ministering,” she said. “It’s about history, it’s about culture. Society needs people who can view the world holistically, not just economically or politically.”
She hopes her studies of comparative policy and the role of religion in world affairs will lead to a career where she can research the impact of religion on different regions and formulate public policies — specifically those affecting religious minorities and children — that will promote positive changes for various countries. Her goal is to become a foreign service officer.
“And when I came to Wesleyan I didn’t even know what a diplomat was,” she said.
That changed this summer when she interned for the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia for the U.S. State Department. Her responsibilities included coordinating and programming Embassy outreach, meeting community leaders and writing reports, including one addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In addition to her studies and travels, Danson has been active in Global Service Learning, MOSAIC, and the President’s Council for Cultural Diversity. She served as student body president in 2009-2010. This fall she will conclude her studies in Lincoln before heading to Germany next spring for another semester abroad.
“I’ve done a lot while at Wesleyan and I feel like I’ve stuck my head in everything I’m interested in,” she said. “Each year I’ve picked up a few more activities. I like to immerse myself.”