Meet The Sunflower Initiative’s 2019 Fitzgerald Scholar!

June 2019
Meet Thu-Yến Nguyen 
Our 2019 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2019 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Thu-Yến Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam. Thu-Yếnhad an outstanding academic record at The Olympia Schools in Hanoi as well as accomplishing many firsts for her age and gender. She was the youngest student ever elected as Student Government President at The Olympia Schools, chosen “Best Speaker” at the Vietnam Schools Debating Championship 2017, and led the 2017 Vietnam Schools National Debate Team to win “Best New Nation” at the 2017 World Schools Debating Championship and Harvard College World Schools Invitations as Team Captain.
 Yến’s interest in gender equality led to a published article on gender equality for the United Nations Women Asia & The Pacific, and she directed a video for the International Day of the Girl Child which was screened in Times Square in New York City.
Teachers attest to her commitment and perseverance. “In 2015, inspired by our class discussion on Gender Equality, Thu-Yến wrote an outstanding article that was selected by the United Nations (UN) Women Asia & The Pacific. After her trip to UN Women Headquarters, Thu-Yến identified the UN’s struggle to reach out to Vietnamese youth. Over the course of 3 years, she has devoted to creating local media campaigns that were more relevant to her peers. 
During events like UNiTE to End Violence against Women, UN Sustainable Developments 7-Day Challenge, Day of the Girl Child, she successfully inspired a diverse group of over 5,000 students both in and outside of The Olympia Schools to participate, including students as young as 10 years old. Before her graduation, Yến successfully achieved her goal of establishing an official partnership between The Olympia Schools and United Nations Vietnam, which opened up sustainable opportunities for her juniors to participate in projects.
The Scholarship Committee noticed that, beyond her own accomplishments, Yến frequently served in a supportive role for fellow students. For the national debate team, she travelled to remote villages to recruit and train students; founded the Hanoi Activities Conference Student Council, a liaison between students councils of 10 international schools to collaborate on community service projects and learning opportunities, and volunteered at the Vietnam Hospital of Pediatrics to teach art to children inspiring others to volunteer as well. 
 A teacher writes that Yến is a “servant-leader who tirelessly nurtures her community of strong leaders, and constantly seeks out opportunities for them to achieve the seemingly impossible.” 
Yến’s accomplishments already seem to reach beyond her years and her national boundaries. It was evident to the Scholarship Committee that she will continue to contribute to every community in which she is a part. Thu-Yến will enroll at Bryn Mawr College in September. 
Thu-Yến’s desire to attend a women’s college was clear: “The supporting system at a women’s college is unique. . . In such developmental and empowering environment, I could establish a global network of female leaders who will help me create a culture of acceptance and celebration of women’s achievements.”
Enrollment Up Sharply at the “Seven Sisters”
A recent surge in applications to the “seven sisters” colleges reaffirms for The Sunflower Initiative our belief that women’s colleges are relevant and vital for young women of today and tomorrow.
An NBC article provides the following interesting information:

Since 2014:
  • Barnard’s applications are up 64%
  • Wellesley’s are up 40%
  • Smith’s are up 25%
  • Mt. Holyoke’s are up 23.6%
  • Bryn Mawr’s are up 23.1%
We can be proud of the role TSI plays in supporting young women in their desire to attend a women’s college.
 Here are some of the highlights of NBC’s article:
Joy St. John, dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley said, “We’ve seen growth in applications from every major geographic region; and among our most recently accepted class, 57% are domestic students of color and 17% are the first in their families to attend a four-year college.”…
A study called “What Matters in College After College” prepared for the Women’s College Coalition found that women’s colleges alumnae were more likely than any other group to complete a graduate degree. The study also found that women’s colleges receive higher effectiveness ratings than all other colleges and universities for helping students be prepared for their first job. 
These statistics do not surprise students like Barnard senior Xonatia Lee. “When women are exposed to powerful female role models, they are more likely to endorse the notion that women are well suited for a leadership role,” Lee said. “It is important to invest in a women’s education and build their leadership skills.”