WKU alumna Emma Shoaf will use a $40,000 Rotary Foundation Global Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the United Kingdom.
Shoaf, a native of Lexington and the daughter of Cameron and Frank Shoaf, is a 2016 graduate in international affairs and Spanish and an alumna of the Mahurin Honors College at WKU. While at WKU, she worked with two of Kentucky’s primary refugee resettlement organizations and interned with the international development NGO Cives Mundi in Spain, where she collaborated on three development projects that promoted economic recuperation in Lebanese refugee camps.
Shoaf was the first WKU student to receive a Princeton in Latin America Fellowship, through which she worked for the Mariposa DR Foundation, a non-profit that aims to educate and empower girls in the Dominican Republic to create sustainable solutions to end generational poverty.
“My ‘on-the-ground’ experience this year has continued to confirm my passion for development work,” Shoaf said. “But, it has made me realize that my strategic place in this field will be to help connect leaders within these communities to networks that offer connections to resources—whether they be financial or connections to expertise, mentoring and consultancy—on an international level.”
Shoaf will pursue a master’s degree in development studies at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex through support from the Rotary Foundation. Shoaf’s faculty mentors said that she is well-prepared for graduate work in development studies. She analyzed NGO projects utilizing business solutions to poverty in her undergraduate Honors thesis, “A Targeted Approach? NGO Roles and Practices in Promoting Economic Development,” and confirmed what many scholars argue: sustainability of NGO intervention is hindered by the fragmentation of the NGO sector, dependence on outside funding, and their vulnerability to changing contexts.
“Her undergraduate academic coursework in international affairs, international business and Spanish, her internships, fellowship and capstone thesis have prepared her well for graduate school,” said Dr. Soleiman Kiasatpour, Shoaf’s Honors thesis advisor and associate professor in the Department of Political Science. “Moreover, her personal qualifications—dedication to alleviating poverty and promoting equality, strong work ethic and integrity—all make her the ideal Rotary Global Grant student-scholar.”
After completing her program at the University of Sussex, Shoaf plans to return to Latin America to work within an organization that supports social businesses as a strategy for promoting economic development.
“These organizations are rooted in the idea that the poor can offer the most sustainable, effective solutions to their own development needs if they are connected to the resources they need to be successful,” Shoaf said. “I strongly believe that organizational models like these, which seek to break down development barriers—primarily access to credit, international networks and markets—will be the most effective in achieving sustainable growth that does not exclude the poor.”
Shoaf worked with the Office of Scholar Development in preparing her application.
“Emma combined her passions, extracurricular activities and academic interests to make her a compelling candidate for nationally-competitive scholarships,” said Dr. Audra Jennings, director of the Office of Scholar Development and associate professor in the Mahurin Honors College. “She has represented WKU well on the global stage, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so at the University of Sussex.”
About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping WKU students in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in nationally competitive scholarships.
About the Mahurin Honors College at WKU: WKU is home of the first independent Honors College at a public university in Kentucky. Created in 2007, the Mahurin Honors College at WKU provides an intimate, highly selective learning environment where college-age gifted and high-achieving students can develop the skills to prepare them for success in the nation’s top academic and career opportunities. Contact: (270) 745-2081.
Contact: Cory Dodds, (270) 745-5043.