WMU News

Student wins scholarship to study in South America

Oct. 2, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- For the second time in recent years, a Western Michigan University student has landed an Ambassadorial Scholarship of up to $25,000 from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

WMU senior Sonya Datta-Sandhu of Kalamazoo will pursue a master's degree in public health for one year in South America thanks to the award, one of more than 1,100 scholarships granted nationwide. In 2001, WMU alumna Tanya Pulver won an Ambassadorial Scholarship to study in Peru. Datta-Sandhu has chosen university sites in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Costa Rica, and is waiting to hear from Rotary International regarding which location she will be assigned to.

"I love speaking Spanish and I want to strengthen my language skills and immerse myself in the culture," says Datta-Sandhu, who is a member of the Lee Honors College and majoring in anthropology and Latin American studies. "My family is from East Africa, in high school I studied in India and I've been to Kenya multiple times. Having seen how limited basic health services are in the developing world, I'd like to explore the ways public health services can be offered and changed."

Datta-Sandhu was in South Africa this past summer doing research for her honors college thesis on nongovernmental organizations working to combat HIV/AIDS. She also has volunteered at an orphanage in India and a South Asian women's shelter in Chicago, spent her spring break working with Cuban and Haitian immigrants in Miami, and done archeological field work in Peru, among other domestic and international activities. Datta-Sandhu speaks Spanish and Punjabi.

"Not only is Sonya a brilliant student, but she is also an exemplar of the Rotary ideal of service to others," says Howard Dooley, chair of the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for the Kalamazoo club and executive director of WMU's Office of International Affairs. She follows Tanya Pulver as WMU's second Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship winner, which is a great achievement on the part of both these young women."

Rotary International is an organization of business and professional leaders that encompasses about 29,000 clubs in 163 countries. The organization focuses on providing humanitarian services, encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations, and helping to build goodwill and peace in the world.

The Ambassadorial Scholarship is the oldest and best-known program of the Rotary Foundation. Since 1947, more than 30,000 people have studied abroad under its auspices. The purpose of the scholarship program is to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries. While abroad, scholars serve as ambassadors of goodwill to the people of the host country and give presentations about their homelands to Rotary clubs and other groups. Upon returning home, scholars share with Rotarians and other the experiences that led to greater understanding of their host countries.

Datta-Sandhu is the daughter of Kanti Sandhu, program manager for EduCable at WMU, and Dr. Suhashni Datta-Sandhu, associate professor political science.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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