VERMILLION, S.D. -- Cecily Engelhart, a senior at The University of South Dakota, is one of more than 400 university students from 40 countries selected to study abroad as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in 2011.
Engelhart, a 2007 graduate of Vermillion High School, was awarded the scholarship last fall. She will study in New Zealand beginning in February 2012 and plans to earn a master’s in indigenous studies during her year of study abroad. A Native Studies major at USD, Engelhart will focus on indigenous Maori issues, learning more about the eating and nutritional habits of their population. The Maori is the indigenous population of New Zealand.
“Food is the gateway to sovereignty,” said Engelhart, who was nominated for the scholarship by the Downtown Rotary Club of Vermillion. “Nutrition interests me mostly because I have seen the detrimental effects of the Western diet firsthand.”
A member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and a descendant of the Oglala Tribe, Engelhart said her family has health problems that disproportionately affect Native Americans, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Her mission, both domestic and abroad, made her an obvious choice as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Designed to bridge cultures and encourage goodwill, the Ambassadorial Scholarships program is one of Rotary’s leading efforts to promote world peace and understanding.
“The situations might be different between the two tribes,” admitted Engelhart, the daughter of Jolane Tomhave of Brookings, S.D., and John Archambeau of Wagner, S.D., “but it’s important for me to study a different culture like the Maori and see just how directly nutrition has impacted their people.”
Several individuals on the USD campus have had an impact on Engelhart’s education, but she cited Elizabeth Castle, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Native Studies, as one person who has had the most direct influence during her time in the Native Studies program.
“She’s been my mentor in so many ways,” added Engelhart, who will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May. “She’s a powerhouse of knowledge.”
Castle is just as complimentary of Engelhart’s abilities – as a student and as a person. To Castle, Engelhart has achieved just as much outside as she has inside the walls of a classroom.
“Cecily is the kind of student whose energy, intellect and courage inspires you as a professor and it sustains you,” stated Castle. “I am proud of the leadership she has shown at USD around issues of social justice, directly yet critically applying what she has learned in classes to make a difference. She is the best of what Native Studies has to offer.”
Rotary’s Ambassadorial Scholarships program is the world’s largest privately sponsored international scholarship program focusing on humanitarian service, personal diplomacy, and academic excellence. Scholarships provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to study at universities in the 200 countries and geographical areas where Rotary clubs are active. While abroad, scholars participate in community service projects and speak at local Rotary club meetings and conferences, schools, civic organizations, and other forums where they serve as “goodwill ambassadors” for their home countries.
“I can think of no better ambassador from the U.S. let alone South Dakota who would be better equipped to make a wonderful impression in New Zealand as an ambassadorial scholar for the Rotary Club,” Castle stated. “The world needs indigenous leadership more than ever and her project comparing the indigenous experience of revitalizing traditional foods and food sovereignty is simply cutting edge work.”
Since 1947, nearly 40,000 students from 130 countries have received scholarships at a cost of more than $532 million through the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. In 2010-11, close to 500 scholars from 50 countries studied in more than 60 nations at a program cost of approximately $12.5 million. Alumni include former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Philip Lader, Goucher College President Sanford Ungar, former U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert.
A photograph of Cecily is available at www.usd.edu/press/news/images/releases/Cecily_Engelhart.jpg.