Six University of Delaware undergraduates
will travel the world to pursue their passions — exploring such diverse
issues as health care, incarceration and urban farms, in projects from
Australia to Rwanda — as the new cohort of Plastino Scholars.
The students were welcomed to the program at this year’s annual
dinner, held May 4 on the University of Delaware campus. At that
celebration, the program’s 2015 scholars gave presentations describing
their own, now-completed projects.
Both groups were joined by proud family members, faculty mentors,
several alumni of the program and its benefactor, alumnus David A.
Established in 2007 by a generous gift from Plastino, a 1978 graduate of UD’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Plastino Scholars Program awards
grants to undergraduates to support self-designed, off-campus projects
reflecting their passion. The awards give students a chance to discover
and follow their interests, with projects that might involve research,
community service or any other form of personal growth and enrichment.
Plastino has said that he got the idea for the program when he helped
his daughter Sarah celebrate an award she had received in college that
enabled her to spend time in a Mexican village, studying cross-border
immigration issues and honing her Spanish language skills.
“It was Sarah’s experience that introduced me to the idea of creating
a way for students to pursue a dream — something educational that they
have a passion for but something they can’t do in a traditional academic
setting,” Plastino has said.
Next year will mark the program’s 10th anniversary.
In introductory remarks at the dinner, George Watson, dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences, thanked Plastino on behalf of “the dozens
of students whose lives you’ve changed through this program.”
The grants, Watson said, “encourage students to use their full imaginative potential to enrich their lives and experiences.”
The 2016 Plastino Scholars and the projects they plan to pursue are:
e, an Honors student majoring in dietetics with a
minor in psychology, will study urban farms throughout the United
States in an effort to understand their nutritional impact on their
communities. She hopes to bring effective programs and ideas back to
Christopher Gunter, a criminal justice major with a minor in
sociology, designed “The Missing Voices Project” as a way to understand
the narratives of convicted individuals and the effects on their
families. His goal is to attend law school and become a leader in the
criminal justice system.
Max Holdsworth, an Honors student with a dual major in public
policy and economics, will travel to England to assist in research on
prevention programs operated through Great Britain’s National Health
Service. He will examine the perspectives of academics, healthcare
professionals and consumers.
Alexis Holzmann, an Honors student majoring in international
relations with minors in urban educational studies, sociology and
French, will spend the summer in Australia, observing the Koonwarra
Village School, an alternative primary school that practices a holistic,
child-centric approach to education.
Katie Katz, an Honors nursing major, will partner with an
organization in Rwanda to focus on “Oral Rehydration Solutions,” a
liquid mixture given to those suffering from diarrhea — the second
leading cause of death in young children. She will observe current
practices and help in community education efforts.
Emily Wunsch, an Honors student with a dual major in exercise
science and Spanish studies and a minor in chemistry, will assist with
health care outreach programs in Latino communities in the U.S.
Southwest. She hopes to gain insights into developing a new program in
The Plastino Scholars Program transforms its students’ lives, Robin
Morgan, professor of biological sciences and of animal and food sciences
and faculty adviser for the program, said at the celebration.
“More than an award, more than an experience, the Plastino Scholars
Program gives students — quite literally — the opportunity of a
lifetime,” she said.