Two Scranton Graduates Win Fulbright Awards

Two University of Scranton graduates, Shelby Traver and Adrian Laudani, received Fulbright Student Scholarships for 2024/2025.
University of Scranton graduates Shelby Traver of the class of 2024 and Adrian Laudani of the class of 2018 have been awarded competitive 2024-2025 Fulbright grants. At Scranton’s 2024 Class Night are, from left: Michelle Maldonado, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J., president; class of 2024 Fulbright Award recipient Shelby Traver; and Kara Kofira Bishop, Fulbright program advisor.
University of Scranton graduates Shelby Traver of the Class of 2024 and Adrian Laudani of the Class of 2018 have been awarded competitive 2024-2025 Fulbright grants. At Scranton’s 2024 Class Night are, from left: Michelle Maldonado, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J., president; class of 2024 Fulbright Award recipient Shelby Traver; and Kara Kofira Bishop, Fulbright program advisor.

Perhaps proving the durable value of a University of Scranton education, two alumni who graduated six years apart were awarded Fulbright Student Scholarships, the prestigious international academic exchange opportunity provided competitively by the U.S. Government.

For the 2024-2025 academic year, Shelby A. Traver ’24, Sweet Valley, received a Fulbright Open Study/Research Award to examine the effect of Rwanda’s election quota system for female candidates. Adrian Laudani ’18, Valley Stream, New York, received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to further develop teaching and mentoring skills in Spain while helping students learning English.

Fulbright awards are based on academic achievement and demonstrated leadership abilities within a person’s field.

With these two additions, 131 University of Scranton students have been awarded Fulbrights since 1972.

“The Scranton graduates awarded Fulbright Student Scholarships this year are outstanding ambassadors for the United States and for the University. They are strong, intelligent, passionate and compassionate women who have committed themselves to help serve others transition into new roles and a new life,” said Kara Kofira Bishop, University of Scranton Fulbright Program adviser and manager of study abroad and international fellowships.

 

Shelby Traver

    Shelby Traver ’24

    Despite growing up in a post “women’s lib” world, Shelby Traver at times “felt judged” in the male-dominated pursuits of business, karate and school debate. “It never really bothered me,” she said, but “at certain times I would think ‘you would not be saying this to me if I were a man.”

    In true Jesuit style, she has never assumed malice – “sometimes they just don’t understand it’s hurtful” – but she has been drawn into gender justice issues, initially by the protests against Iranian mandates for female clothing. An independent studies class on quotas further piqued her interest. “I think they are one of the most fascinating political instruments because they work so differently in so many different places.

    “I just kept coming across Rwanda as this country that is kind of a paragon for supporting women, at least in the political arena.”

    Following a stretch of internal struggles and genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, Rwanda worked to unify with a new constitution that requires at least 30 percent of both houses of parliament be women. But “that acted as a floor instead of a ceiling,” Traver said. The women who first got elected through the quota later got re-elected on their own success, opening up the quota seats for more women. Now the parliament is 61 percent female, the highest percentage for a parliament in the world.

    By comparison, she notes, at the federal level the U.S. “gets 24% in a good year.”

    The Fulbright award will allow her to spend nine months living in Huye, considered Rwanda’s academic capital, with visits to Kigali, the political capital.

    University of Rwanda-Huye senior lecturer Ismael Buchanan, Ph.D., has offered to mentor Traver during her research, and to provide contacts for potential interviews. “I would love to interview people, especially in government and academics, who study these things.”

    The native of Sweet Valley in Ross Township, Luzerne County, will also have the chance to take courses at the University of Rwanda, and to improve her French, one of the country’s four official languages. She’s hoping to pick up some Swahili as well. And with luck, she’ll get a little time to see the sights of a country famous for exotic vistas and animal preserves.

    There’s one more thing. “A big part of being a Fulbright scholar is being a cultural ambassador for the U.S.. I’m not only going to do research but I’m going to talk about my own country,” she said. “It’s an amazing way to share between two cultures.”

    Traver has been overseas before, as part of a University of Scranton trip to the West Bank of Palestine for a class on Christianity in the Middle East with Michael Azar, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and religious studies. “That was a really transformative moment, seeing how important it is for people to be heard,” she said. Many there are “never really listened to.”  She also lived in France for seven weeks studying international business.

    Having three majors as an undergraduate – international business, political science and philosophy – as well as a minor in French, Traver admits “I didn’t sleep much for four years.” She was a member of the University’s Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program and was the recipient of the University’s full-tuition Presidential Scholarship. She was awarded a Slattery Humanities Center Student Fellowship and President’s Summer Research Fellowship. Amazingly, she still found time to mentor at-risk students; serve as vice-president of The University of Scranton College Democrats, as well as a student organizer for the Gender Justice Dialogue Series; and make the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society, Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honor Society and Pi Gamma Mu social sciences honor society. Traver was also a member of Kania Women in Business, served as alumni chair for the Kania Student Advisory Board and was a student organizer for the Gender Justice University Dialogue

    A graduate of Lake-Lehman High School and a summa cum laude graduate of Scranton, Traver received the University’s Excellence in International Business Award at commencement.

    After nine months in Rwanda Traver plans to get her doctorate in women in politics, hoping to change those “hurtful comments.”

    “I hope I can help create a world where it doesn’t happen,” she said. “It’s a lofty dream, but I hope to take at least a little bit of a chisel to it.”

    Fulbright winner

      Adrian Laudani ’18

      Adrian Laudani has always had an affinity for the issues immigrants face. She worked closely with international students as an undergraduate at The University of Scranton, and most recently has been aiding migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border for more than two years.

      While attending The University of Scranton, she participated in Campus Ministry’s International Service Program to Guatemala, and spent a semester in Rome studying Italian and theology. Originally from Valley Stream in Long Island, New York, Laudani earned a Bachelors of Science in counseling and human services with a concentration in human development and a double minor in Italian and theology/religious studies. As a Resident Assistant, she won the ‘Program of the Year’ award for an initiative she started with the global exchange community. 

      After graduating from Scranton in 2018, she served one year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where as a case manager, she resettled refugees in the greater Atlanta area. “I offered general transitional support and helped with adaptation, but not in the sense that families just arrived and now need to assimilate. It’s about meeting people’s needs where they are, recognizing that they’ve experienced a lot of trauma and are in a delicate situation, adults and children alike.”

      Laudani went on to earn a Masters of Arts in International Studies at the University of San Francisco, a sister Jesuit university, where she received the “Best Overall Thesis” award for her research on the quality of the refugee resettlement program in the United States. She also worked in Italy for Spring Hill College’s study abroad program, and ran immersion programs that took students to the Nogales, San Diego-Tijuana and Dominican Republic-Haiti borders. “These experiences have really allowed me to live out my Jesuit values of serving others. As I continue to be in these spaces, I find that my passion to work with immigrants, refugees and international students has grown even greater,” said Laudani.

      Working at the U.S.-Mexico border led logically to her studying Spanish. She has spent time with children and families living in shelters on both sides of the border. Through her work, she wanted to “help families feel like the U.S. is going to become home, and not just a place they landed after having fled their homeland due to war, violence or things of that nature.”   

      Being a neighboring country to her parent’s first country of Italy, applying for a Fulbright Award to Spain was a natural lure. After learning about migrant pathways coming through southern Spain, she said “I wanted to dive deeper.” The Fulbright will allow Laudani to work part-time in a classroom at the University of Málaga as an English Teaching Assistant. She also plans to continue her work with refugees with the Jesuit Refugee Service in the nearby city of Seville.

      Her long list of accomplishments while at Scranton include membership in Alpha Mu Gamma, the foreign language honor society, Theta Alpha Kappa, the theology honor society, and Tau Upsilon Alpha, the human services honor society.

      While formal studies at The University of Scranton are several years behind her, Laudani continues to draw support from the connections made here. “I’ve definitely stayed in touch with some of my mentors,” she said, citing Barbara King, student life coordinator, who was in Campus Ministry during her undergraduate years. “I continue to feel close to Scranton”.

      Once the nine months in Spain are done, Laudani plans to keep doing what she’s been doing, either in Europe or the United States. “I’m open to working with migrants journeying through the Mediterranean, or coming back to the U.S. to work at the intersection of higher education and immigration. I could see myself working at a university with international students or going back to the nonprofit world continuing direct service with refugees and migrants.”

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