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Introducing the Lang Scholar Class of 2021

As the newest recipients of the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship (LOS), six Swarthmore sophomores will be tackling social action projects here and around the globe.

“The Lang Scholar Class of 2021 is an inspiring cohort who exemplify engaged scholarship,” says Jennifer Magee, senior associate director for the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, who advises the scholars.

“Their projects will span the domains of innovation in Haiti, public health in India and beyond, college access in Missouri, creative writing in Philadelphia, and more,” Magee adds. “With the mentoring and resources available through the Lang Center, Lang Scholars gain the knowledge, connections, and skills needed to craft effective and innovative solutions to complex social challenges.”

The members of the Lang Scholar Class of 2021:

Faith BeckerFaith Becker ’21 (St. Louis, Mo.). Educational inequality plays a significant role in the lives of students in the American public school system, especially within the St. Louis area. Low-income students are often left unprepared for college after high school and, therefore, typically opt to go straight into the workforce, a process that often pushes these students back into a cycle of poverty. With Becker’s intended project, Strive St. Louis, she plans to combat educational inequality by providing college access programs and resources to underprivileged students.

“By being a part of LOS, I have a group of people who can support and help me implement positive change in the world,” says Becker. “I don’t have to be alone through my struggles or my accomplishments, and that means a lot.”

Lamia MakkarLamia Makkar ’21 (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates). Makkar’s intended project, WOCO, will stimulate the growth of innovation ecosystems in emerging markets, starting in Haiti. Its platform will facilitate two critical features of a healthy ecosystem: local collaboration through its online community and the ability to leverage international resources through a two-sided marketplace. The online community incorporates collaboration through a value exchange, and the two-sided marketplace offers venture-building travel experiences to support the growth of local entities.

“I chose to come to Swarthmore specifically for the Lang Center and the incredible access to resources it offers for social impact projects,” says Makkar, “and I am extremely grateful to have the chance to continue building such projects through the LOS program.”

Joleen OpulaJolleen Opula ’21 (Bungoma, Kenya). Opula’s intended project will address the issue of lack of classrooms in schools in a rural village in Bungoma County, Kenya. Opula will work with residents to build classrooms using locally available materials. The aim of the project is to enhance the education experience of students in the village and to help improve the students’ learning outcomes.

“I am excited to join the LOS program, and I look forward to implementing my project and giving back to my community,” says Opula.

Chris PreciseChris Precise ’21 (Philadelphia, Pa.). “Writing in the Ward: Thinking Creatively about W.E.B. DuBois and Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward,” will be a sociology-writing workshop implemented at Mighty Writers South, designed to teach marginalized high school students in the Seventh Ward sociology with creative writing. Using a board game, field study of the area, knowledge from coursework at Swarthmore, and writing of different genres, students will learn how to think and write about sociology from a creative lens.

“This opportunity means that I’ll finally get to be the change in my city that I can’t sit around and wait for,” says Precise.

Shayena Shah

Shayena Shah ’21 (Ahmedabad, India). SaniStitch is an economic livelihood initiative that combats taboos against menstruation in India. Shah aims to improve menstrual health through reusable menstrual product design workshops for women, the training of peer health workers, and awareness workshops for all genders. Through SaniStitch, she will help to promote societal openness and acceptance of menstruation for women of all ages.

“I am very excited to be given this wonderful opportunity of working with a supportive and knowledgeable network of advisers at Swarthmore to expand SaniStitch into more communities across the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra and strengthen the ties that we have already made in the past,” says Shah.

Andrew ZhuAndrew Zhu ’21 (Los Angeles, Calif.). Zhu intends to create a Lang Project that will raise awareness about and funding for the study of rare, deadly infectious diseases. These infections have very high mortality rates, but are considered low priority by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to their rarity; therefore, public awareness is low and funding for research is sparse. As climate change may be linked to the proliferation of some of these diseases, Zhu’s project will become a timely example of STEM for social good.

“I’ve done a lot of independent research and learning, but I never really knew how to communicate it to others in a larger context,” says Zhu. “I’m grateful and ecstatic that the Lang Scholar Program will help me learn to effectively bridge the knowledge that I care about to society.”

The Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship Program each year selects up to six members of Swarthmore’s sophomore class as Lang Scholars. Selection criteria include distinguished academic and extracurricular achievement, leadership qualities, and demonstrated commitment to civic and social responsibility. As its central feature, the program offers each scholar the opportunity and related funding to conceive, design, and carry out an opportunity project that creates a needed social resource and/or effects a significant social change or improved condition of a community in the United States or abroad. In addition, it offers each Scholar a diverse succession of undergraduate and graduate financial and other benefits. The program was conceived and endowed by Eugene M. Lang ’38, H’81.

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