The newest recipients of the Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholarship (LOS), six Swarthmore sophomores will embark on an array of projects around the world, collaborating with partners to effect change.
A signature program of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, LOS supports innovative efforts of students working on issues of social concern in deep consultation with community members.
“We’re very excited about the Lang Scholars in our LOS Class of 2026, who aim to link their academics with action both locally and abroad,” says Ben Berger, executive director of the Lang Center and associate professor of political science.
“From building a robotics program in Chester and advancing Indigenous land rights in Montana, to bridging gaps between rural and urban schooling of girls in Mongolia and enhancing agricultural resilience in Benin,” he adds, “our students will work with community partners to design and sustain Lang Projects.”
“I am inspired by the fact that Lang Scholars dedicate their talents and years of their lives to communities they care deeply about, and am blown away by the exceptional promise of this new cohort of Lang Scholars,” adds Jennifer Magee, director of program development, implementation & assessment at the Lang Center, who advises the scholars.
“They will map the systems that hold challenges in place and work towards catalyzing pent-up energy for meaningful change.”
Below, the students shed light on their upcoming projects as well as the opportunity presented to them as Lang Opportunity Scholars.
Myadaggarav Chuluundorj ’26 (Erdenet, Mongolia): Cultivating the Mongolian Dream
"What does a dream mean for a student from a rural town? This pivotal question underscores our exploration through WEngage.” In Mongolia, an enormous educational and economic divide persists between rural and urban areas, particularly affecting Mongolian herder students. Accessing education requires traveling miles alone in harsh climates while juggling full-time herding responsibilities. This project is an all-encompassing, forward-thinking initiative with an unwavering dedication to narrowing educational disparities in rural high schools. Through this transformative endeavor, my commitment is to cultivate the Mongolian dream, guiding students toward realizing their full potential by providing the essential resources for their educational journey.
"Being a Lang Opportunity Scholar signifies carrying the immense trust placed in me by people, a humbling responsibility entrusted to me, and the power I gain to represent my community and bring about change. My goal is to empower every student to dream and rebuild the lost Mongolian Dream within my community."
Danika Grieser ’26 (Doylestown, Pa.): Validating Indigenous Knowledge and Practices
“There exist institutional and systemic barriers that restrict Native Americans from graduating high school — let alone attending higher education. Continuing to neglect the complexities of Indigenous relationships and the individuality of tribes may only further the alienation of Native Americans in academia. Rather than prioritize fiscal incentives, many Indigenous cultures are founded on principles of land stewardship, interpersonal connections, and heritage. Through my LOS project, I aim to emphasize the cultural advantages that academia can bring to the Flathead and Fort Belknap communities and future generations by validating Indigenous knowledge and practices.
"Being chosen as a Lang Opportunity Scholar places worth and merit on the issue of Indigenous education access as my work will be supported by mentors, faculty, and a cohort of socially minded students committed to fostering positive change. I hope that my project serves as a framework for dismantling the barriers hindering Native Americans’ from entering economics and academia, thus amplifying the Indigenous knowledge base that protects and honors heritage, culture, and the future."
Lena Habtu ’26 (New York City): Creating a Narrative to Restore Tigrayan Agency
“In November 2020, the Ethiopian government, aided by Eritrea’s military and other regional paramilitary groups, began their genocidal campaign in Tigray, my and my family’s region. The last few years have seen unspeakable loss in nearly 800,000 civilian deaths, but also in the telecommunications blackout that eliminated people’s ability to tell their own stories. As Tigray rebuilds, I want to focus my efforts on supporting work that centers autonomy, primarily through conducting narrative work in communities in Tigray. In continuing my previous work with local organizations like Haben Tigray, I hope to create a storytelling narrative that helps to restore the autonomy, dignity, and agency denied by this genocide.
"Being a Lang Opportunity Scholar provides me with the guidance and support that I’ll need to execute my project, and most importantly, an environment in which the ever-changing nature of my project isn’t just accommodated, but celebrated. I hope to give back to the people of Tigray in every way that I am capable of, beginning with the narrative project as a way through which Tigrayan people can express their stories, histories, and hopes for the future."
Prerna Karmacharya ’26 (Lincoln, Mass.): Helping Girls Gain Expertise in Robotics
"Robotics education is growing all around the world. However, in many programs, girls are not prioritized and their experiences often reinforce societal stereotypes and gender biases in STEM fields. This contributes to women being vastly underrepresented in STEM based higher education and careers. My project focuses on providing robotics education to girls in Nepal, as existing programs often overlook girls. I plan to develop a program that not only helps girls gain expertise in robotics, but also gives them space and opportunity to foster teamwork skills, cultivate their confidence, and become impactful leaders. I also hope to encourage girls to pursue higher education in STEM fields, a step forward in addressing the STEM gender gap.
"Being a Lang Scholar means having the mentorship and community to think deeply about issues surrounding gender, education, and STEM in different societies, and learning how to make a positive impact in my community. Through my project, I hope to create a more welcoming space for girls interested in robotics and STEM."
Steven Mukum ’26 (Yaoundé, Cameroon): Enhancing Food and Income Security
“My project, Rising Above Water, inspired by my personal experience of displacement at age 11 in Cameroon, aims to address internal displacement in Dangbo, Benin, caused by climate-related flooding. It focuses on empowering women and youth from the displacement-prone community of Dangbo, Benin through training in sustainable agriculture and providing flood-resistant infrastructure and seeds. The goal is to enhance food and income security, thereby fostering community resilience and breaking the cycle of displacement. The project will include community training, expert consultations, and resource provision, all aimed at long-term sustainability and a broader impact against climate-induced displacement.
"Being a Lang Scholar means gaining access to a supportive community and essential resources, which are crucial in enabling me to effect the change I envision. It's about bridging the gap between my experiential learning, academic knowledge, and the personal challenges I've faced as a displaced person. This unique combination allows me to focus on addressing the problems I have personally encountered, leveraging my scholarship for meaningful impact."
Cheng-Yen (Billy) Wu ’26 (Taipei & Suzhou, Taiwan): Centering Perspectives of Acquired Disability
“Acquired Tomorrows (明天计划) is a project that centers on sociability and accessibility among people with disabilities in Kunshan, mainland China, a city I grew up in that is characterized by its dense industrialization. This project aims to distinguish between congenital and acquired disability to provide group-based mental therapies and support networks and accessibility help (in terms of license registration, job application, etc.) to people with acquired disability as they experience this sudden shift in life.
"Being a Lang Opportunity Scholar means giving back to communities, utilizing the knowledge we gain and our privileges to create positive change and build a better world for all, especially those who have long been marginalized. Through this project, I hope to center the heterogeneous voices of people with acquired disability and build a support network among them and beyond."