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Davis Scholars Program brings Oles from around the world

By Mara Fink '11
February 4, 2011

Juan Fernando Yanqui Rivera ’14, a native of Ecuador, is one of eight students who have come to St. Olaf through the Davis United World College Scholars Program.

When the flight that Juan Fernando Yanqui Rivera ’14 had taken from his native Ecuador arrived in Minnesota, he was ready for the cold. He had heard about the state’s frigid winters and was well prepared with his hiking boots and several layers of clothing. But it was August when he arrived and, much to his surprise, he says laughing, it was warm.

Rivera came to St. Olaf through the Davis United World College Scholars Program that grants scholarships to international students who have chosen to attend member colleges. St. Olaf is one such member college and currently has eight Davis scholars on campus who hail from such locales as Ecuador, Albania, Denmark, and Kenya. Each of the students attended high school at one of 13 United World Colleges (UWC) around the globe, which made them eligible for the scholarship program.

After attending the UWC school in Norway for two years, Rivera took a liking to Norwegian culture. When looking at colleges, the connections St. Olaf had with Norway enticed him to apply. “The people and the community itself are similar to Norway,” he says. “And it’s interesting how engaged St. Olaf is in the community.”

Kagan Sen ’14, originally from Turkey, is studying economics in his first year at St. Olaf. He went to high school at UWC in Mostar, located in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sen is enjoying St. Olaf, even though it’s different from his high school, which had students from all over the world. “Although it’s not as ethnically diverse as UWC, it’s ideologically diverse,” he says.

St. Olaf became a part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program in the fall of 2008 and the numbers of scholars on campus has increased since then. Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of International Recruitment Jenny Howenstine ‘98 expects that the number will increase again next year. “The UWC students who are currently here and those who are applying this year all have so much to offer the St. Olaf community. They bring a unique blend of perspectives from their home country, the UWC they attended, and the intercultural understanding and peace-building experiences that are part of the UWC mission,” she says.

Davis Scholars Program
The Davis United World College Scholars Program is the largest international scholarship program for undergraduates in the world, and the organization currently funds more than 2,000 scholars at more than 90 institutions. It provides need-based scholarships of up to $20,000 per year for four years to students who attended the United World College Schools. The goal is to give more students from around the world the chance to study in the United States and to benefit universities in the United States by creating more diverse student bodies.

Another facet of the program gives any St. Olaf student the chance to apply for a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, an initiative that funds student plans for grassroots projects promoting peace. Subhash Ghimire ‘10 earned a grant to establish a summer camp for children impacted by civil war in his native Nepal and Monica Southworth ‘10 received one of the awards to establish sustainable water sources in Tanzania.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or