Learning experiences await the first recipients of VCU’s new Baldacci fund
April 25, 2018

Thanks to a new fund in the College of Humanities and Sciences that supports Virginia Commonwealth University students interested in pursuing internships, research and study abroad experiences, Honors College student Maryum Elnasseh '20, a mass communications and political science double major, will take part in the “Going on Assignment in Prague” study abroad program this summer. She will be one of a group of journalism students who are instructed by established journalists working for international media outlets.

Elnassah  is one of the inaugural 12 recipients of awards from the Baldacci Student Experiential Learning Fund, which provides grants of $1,000 to $5,000 to academically promising VCU students from diverse areas of study and backgrounds to allow them to pursue internships, conferences, research, domestic or international study abroad, and social entrepreneurship opportunities.

“This study-abroad course mainly focuses on foreign reporting and is meant to prepare students who, like myself, dream of working as activists, advocating for resolutions to global issues,” she said. “Additionally, the course provides students extensive coaching, access to interpreters, and detailed feedback so we can pursue real stories on the streets of Prague and end up with publishable pieces to launch our journalism careers.

“As a student double majoring in journalism and political science with a concentration in civil rights, this sounded absolutely perfect to me,” she added. “My interest was even more deepened when I saw the topics in the course curriculum, which included ‘sexism in journalism and politics’ and ‘reporting under conflict.’ … I’m sure this course will provide me with very valuable experiences to help achieve my career goals.”

The fund was made possible because of a gift to VCU from bestselling novelist and political science alumnus David Baldacci and his wife, Michelle, last fall.

“The generosity of the Baldacci family brings experiential learning opportunities to our students, anchoring the liberal arts mission of the College of Humanities and Sciences,” said Montserrat “Montse” Fuentes, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. “This gift offers to our students opportunities for world-learning experiences.

“The Baldacci experiential funds are allowing us to introduce learning through reflection on doing, while promoting entrepreneurial training that creates the tools and means that bring positive sustainable results to our community and society,” Fuentes said. “This is a venue to enhance and promote a transformational education to the distinctive student population of the College of Humanities of Sciences.”

Three other Honors students also received Baldacci Student Experiential Learning Fund awards:

Caitlin Cain '19 (forensic science and chemistry) will be conducting chemical research on how the selectivity of a separation changes by varying the ratio of chemically bonded ligands on the stationary phase research, and will present her research at the Pittsburgh Conference & Exposition (Pittcon), the leading annual conference on fundamental analytical chemistry.

Sean Hubbard '20 (biology) will participate in an expedition as a research assistant in Guyana, led by Operation Wallacea, which will journey to a protected reserve called Iwokrama in the undisturbed primary rainforest of the Guiana Shield region.

Samantha Moon '19 (biology) will study abroad, taking courses in evolutionary palaeobiology and creative writing at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, this summer and fall.