Lauren Buckley, a senior majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, was selected as a 2012-13 Luce Scholar—the second person from the University of Wisconsin–Madison accepted into this prestigious program in recent years.
The Henry Luce Foundation created the year-long Luce Scholars Program to increase awareness about Asia among potential leaders in American society who have had limited experience in the region and who might not otherwise have an opportunity to come to know Asia.
The program is nationally competitive, with only 15 to 18 recipients chosen each year. Luce Scholars receive a stipend, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia.
Paul Kellner (M.S. ‘07, life sciences communication), was a 2010-11 Luce Scholar, and spent his Luce year in Jakarta, Indonesia, as a researcher for the Indonesian Center for the Study of Law and Policy (PSHK).
Buckley, who grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, is still awaiting the specifics of her placement, but expects she will be going to Thailand, Laos, or Vietnam. (Read Buckley’s biography on the Luce Scholars website.)
“I will not know the exact project until probably mid-May, but it might be involving environmental sustainability, HIV/AIDS work, getting healthcare to marginalized groups, or working with UXO (unexploded ordinances) victims.”
Buckley talks about why she applied for the Luce Scholarship.
“The Luce Scholars Program attracted me because it offers the opportunity to live in Asia to students with little to no background in Asian studies or languages. The program recruits students with career goals that may not otherwise lead them to spend an extended period of time in Asia, but who could certainly benefit from the experience. The wonderful thing is this could describe just about anyone.”
Looking beyond her Luce year, she plans to attend graduate school in biochemistry at the University of California–Berkeley, with long-term goals of a career in scientific research.
“It may not be an obvious fit, since the normal scientific path would not necessarily lead me to Asia,” she explains. “However, I’m also interested in language and culture, so the Luce program is allowing me to explore the intersection of my interests in science and the people it can benefit; I found this middle ground in public health and human rights.”
She notes that the program includes language training and efforts are made to place each Luce Scholar with organizations and locations that fit the individual’s interests.
“Projects are limited largely by your own imagination – this year’s scholars range from clinicians to dancers – and need not fit exactly into your area of specialty,” she says.
Buckley’s previous international experiences also fueled her interest in the Luce Scholars program.
“I’ve studied French throughout undergraduate career, and have been lucky to spend a month in France and Morocco my junior year with friends studying abroad, and to stay with a host family in high school. Both were incredible experiences, mostly because in each case I spoke the language and was able to be more than a tourist. “
She adds, “Both experiences have me hooked on traveling – and right after undergrad is a great time to do it, since I don’t have a long-term career commitment yet. “
She recognizes that being a Luce Scholar is a unique opportunity.
“The Luce Scholars program is an extraordinarily immersive form of traveling though, since I will be working closely with a community, likely not in a major city,” she says. “Getting paid, rather than paying, for this kind of experience is unreal.”
Buckley anticipates gaining much from this experience, perhaps determining the direction of her life and career.
“There is no question the program will grant me an intimate relationship with a part of the world I may not get to explore otherwise, depending on the direction of my career path,” she says.
“But even more exciting is the possibility that my Luce year will grant me a clearer idea of what problems I see as important, which could help direct the course of my career. I may, for example, have a better idea of what an international career using my biochemistry education could look like,” she says.
“No matter where my career leads, the Luce program will certainly leave me with a new language, friends, tons of adventures, and a level of understanding of some aspect of an Asian culture that would be hard to achieve traveling on my own.”