Learn about our scholars

A women's college will provide an experience for me to...

Find my voice.
Speak my mind.
Tell the world.

A women’s college provides a supportive environment for students to explore their intellectual curiosity.  Students build confidence to formulate their own ideas and share them by actively contributing to discussions inside and outside of the classroom.  As graduates, they are fully prepared with the self-confidence, communications and critical thinking skills needed to lead in a global world.

Each year, The Sunflower Initiative selects a new scholarship recipient from a large number of applicants who are seeking a college experience where leadership and academic success are nurtured and celebrated. Scholarship selection is highly competitive, and applicants are evaluated on their academic and extracurricular achievements, character, leadership potential and contribution to their communities.

“When you are surrounded by the expectation that every woman is doing something amazing with her time you naturally grow accustomed to women’s leadership and adopt the mentality that you can do anything. My career, as is any endeavor, is undoubtedly possible – because in every other room, I’m treated like a woman; at Wellesley, I’m treated like a person."

Emily Moss, 2015 Scholarship Recipient, Wellesley College

Did you know?

There are over 15 different varieties of sunflowers.

TSI celebrates the diversity of our scholars. Like the individual petals of a sunflower, each is unique, coming from a variety of backgrounds, with a range of interests and life experiences.  As petals grouped together to form a flower, collectively they represent the easy way in which women collaborate and are willing to work together to support each other and achieve big objectives.

Our Scholars

The Sunflower Initiative is proud to shine a light on the incredible women who have impacted their women’s college communities and beyond.

2021 — Kennedi Malone

Agnes Scott College

The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2021 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Kennedi Malone of Fayetteville, Georgia. Kennedi will graduate with both academic and leadership honors and an excellent academic record from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, and will attend Agnes Scott College in Fall 2021.

The TSI scholarship committee was impressed by Kennedi’s maturity during the interview process. Her self-described strengths of “precise organization, clear communication, empathetic leadership” were evident in her many academic as well as extra-curricular achievements. Kennedi received awards in Spanish, World History, English, and Science, and she is an AP Scholar with Distinction. A member of her school’s STEM cohort, Kennedi has served for all four years of high school as class representative to the STEM program, which also includes community-based projects and symposia, in addition to coursework in chemistry, physics, calculus, engineering and microbiology. Her junior-year research project investigated the efficacy of sound therapy for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and hypersensitivity. She also developed a deep love of world history and art history and incorporated these subjects into her rigorous schedule with nine AP classes.

To facilitate and increase discussion of media content centering on marginalized communities, Kennedi co-founded @StayConsciousMedia, hoping to educate and engage her peers in a greater understanding of social justice issues. Kennedi curates the topics, prepares readings, and hosts this group in weekly peer-led (zoom) discussions on themes ranging from race in America to discrimination and erasure of gender and sexuality minorities in Poland. As a minority student in a majority white high school community, Kennedi’s efforts affirm her motto, “If I am to improve the quality of my life, I must amplify my voice instead of worrying about who will try to silence it.” Kennedi’s goal is to improve public health and to expand global health education. Her counselor notes that she “possesses much academic promise and is destined to achieve her goal of designing public health programs that are considerate, equitable, and effective for her community."

2021 — Julia Rademacher-Wedd

Agnes Scott College

The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2021 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Julia Rademacher-Wedd of Chicago, Illinois. Julia graduated in 2020 from the Whitney Young arts magnet high school in Chicago with a superb academic record in honors and AP classes, in addition to coursework in the arts program. After taking a gap year during the Covid-19 pandemic, she will enroll at Agnes Scott College in the Fall of 2021.

Although Whitney Young is an arts magnet, Julia’s balanced course of study included early completion of calculus and plenty of additional work in the sciences, along with history, literature, and politics. In addition to a heavy course load, she still made time for chorus and took the most demanding dance classes offered. She danced 20 hours a week doing choreography and participated on the school’s best competitive dance team. During high school she was so deeply moved by the violations of human rights that she saw during a school trip to the Arizona-Mexico border that she wrote an essay that won an award from the Kemper Human Rights Foundation. She has also won designation as an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, and an Illinois State Scholar.

After graduating, Julia explains that she deferred enrollment at Agnes Scott College in order “to support elementary school students who did not have the option to take a gap year while everyone figured it [remote learning] out.” During 2020-2021 she volunteers for Americorps in the public schools, helping fourth-graders with math and social-emotional learning. She also volunteers as Legislative Outreach Coordinator for Parole Illinois, which is devoted to winning parole for people subjected to long-term (often indefinite) incarceration. At Parole Illinois, she moved into leadership quickly, noted by those supporting her enlarged role for her communications skills, wise judgment, and remarkable ease and professionalism. She is eager to start her academic journey at Agnes Scott and pursue her interest in comparative public policy. “During my four years in community at Agnes Scott, I hope to grow in my capability to transform society through compassionate relationships and bold calls for justice.”

2020 — Alena Rooney

Smith College

The Sunflower Initiative awarded the 2020 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Alena Rooney of Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from the Chicago Waldorf High School in June 2020, Alena deferred her acceptance at Smith College for a year because of Covid-19. She is now getting ready to enter Smith in the fall in a more normal year when everyone will be vaccinated, and as she says, “I am beyond excited and grateful to have classes in person!” She has had a busy year as a policy intern for a new Illinois non-profit devoted to improving access to contraception, combined with tutoring and babysitting.

The Scholarship Committee was impressed by the wide variety and depth of studies that Alena pursued at the Waldorf School. She also was a four-year varsity volleyball player, senior co-captain, a student representative to the parent community, a school ambassador, and a peer tutor in German.

Her teachers praised “a highly motivated, curious, engaged student,” with “a distinguished work ethic and striking level of motivation” and were equally unanimous in pointing out “her gracious presence in the classroom,” “perhaps the most gracious and thoughtful classroom presence of any student,” and “her remarkable capacity for empathy.” Her academic record is flawless, and her achievements beyond her school record reveal deep interests in languages, music, and justice. As a sophomore, she initiated a three-month exchange program in Freiberg, Germany, gaining a language proficiency and motivation that led her German instructor at Waldorf to nominate Alena for the Internationale Deutscholympiade, the largest German language competition in the world. She was one of two students selected to represent the United States at the event which brought together students from all over the world.

Alena’s interest in music ranges from traditional to contemporary. She has played Irish fiddle music since she was six years old competing nationally in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil and internationally in the All Ireland Fleadh. Recently she has taken up rock violin, performing with the band Poi Dog Pondering at various venues in Chicago. Alena has participated in yearly service-learning projects with her Waldorf classmates. A week at STAND the Haiti Project, a rehabilitation clinic in Port-au-Paix, Haiti, was a pivotal experience leading to an interest in global women’s health.

She writes, “Throughout my life I have been guided by my innate sense of balance, one that seeks to uproot injustice in any field I can. The empowering environment at a women’s college will help cultivate my will to do meaningful work, to be a leader, to be confident and resolute in my beliefs.”

2019 — Thu-Yến Nguyen

Bryn Mawr College

The Sunflower Initiative awarded the 2019 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Thu-Yến Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam. She is completing her first year at Bryn Mawr College. Thu-Yến had an outstanding high school academic record at The Olympia Schools in Hanoi. She was the youngest student ever elected as Student Government President, 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.

Teachers praised 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. 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.”

The Scholarship Committee noted that, beyond her own accomplishments, Yến frequently served in a supportive role for fellow students. One teacher wrote 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.”

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.”

2018 — Ariana Carranza

Barnard College

Ariana Carranza of Palo Alto, California, enrolled at Barnard College as the 2018 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar. She continues to take full advantage of her Barnard education while also enjoying the advantages of being a student in New York City. She recently began working at an anesthesiology company and is able to assist in certain procedures, a step toward her goal of becoming a physician.

Ariana achieved an outstanding high school record. Recommendations from her teachers attest to her compassion and intellectual talent. Her Biology and Human Anatomy teacher wrote “Ariana possesses all the qualities of a great leader. She is passionate, honest, accountable and supportive of others. In and out of the classroom, she subtly takes on challenges and problem-solves by working collaboratively with others.” She founded the Latinx Affinity group at her high school and is also the captain of the school’s hip-hop dance team. She attended the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) at Stanford University for three summers. During her high school years she tutored younger students in math, science, and other courses. Her goal is to study medicine and pursue a career in public health.

Ariana attended both coeducational and all-female schools in California and before that in her native Peru. Realizing that she felt stronger, more confident, and even bolder in an all-female environment, she decided that a women’s college would be her first choice. “I had always felt the right balance of feeling challenged but also accepted and comfortable while studying amongst women.”

2017 — Maggie Micklo

Mt. Holyoke College

Maggie Micklo of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was the 2017 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar. Maggie’s enthusiasm, articulateness, and pursuit of intellectual and societal challenges were evident during interviews with the TSI scholarship committee. Her experience as a high school student at Barnard College’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute was a pivotal experience. “My two weeks at Barnard showed me the power of women’s voices in a way I had never experienced in my co-educational high school. I added my perspective to the intelligent, motivated voices of my peers in discussions that not only changed my thinking but also changed the direction of my life. Women’s colleges create leaders, and strong leaders change the world.”

In addition to a stellar high school record, Maggie served as Senior Class President, participated in theatre productions, concert and madrigal choirs, speech and debate teams, and volunteered with at-risk children, bilingual students, LGBTQ youth and children with autism. As president of the Gender Equality Club at her school, she recruited both boys and girls to work on projects for women and children in homeless shelters in the Chicago area. She was an exchange student in Marseille, France, and hosted French exchange students in the U.S. Her teachers noted that she is a fearsome debater because of her analytical skills and incredible grasp of the language. She was active in local politics, passionate about the rights of individuals and displayed a “deep sense of empathy and concern for people who have individual differences.”

Maggie interned for Rep. Sean Casten, Congressman for the 6th Illinois district, during the summer of 2019 and studied Politics and French in Montpellier, France, during the Spring 2020 semester.

2016 — Ilse Meiler

Smith College

Ilse Meiler, our 2016 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, studied at the University of Geneva with the “Smith in Geneva” program in the spring of 2019 taking courses in Russian language, history and religion leading to a double major in Russian and Eastern European and Eurasian Area Studies. She served as President of Lawrence House 2019-20 and was selected as a student fellow with Smith’s Kahn Institute. Future plans are to serve as a Peace Corp volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic and eventually to study simultaneous interpretation in graduate school.

Ilse began her college career at Smith fluent in four languages. (Her father is German and her mother is Mexican.) Her strong academic interests were apparent in high school when she approached her high school’s chemistry teacher as a freshman, two years before entering his class, to seek his help on a project to determine whether “blood-thinning diseases such as hemophilia compromise the blood spatter patterns used by forensic investigators.” She won the Colorado state science fair in physics not only for the creativity and care with which she did this project but also because of the professional level of her analysis, after having taught herself the field of multivariate statistics just to make sense out of her 500 data trials.

When Ilse shot beyond the level of AP courses and post-AP courses available in French and differential equations, her high school invited her to help out with teachers going on leave so she began teaching first and second-period history at the 8th and 9th-grade levels. And her science teacher and debate coach commented that “Ilse’s brilliance spans disciplines,” that she thinks globally and understands global complexities.

Ilse graduated from Smith virtually in May 2020, and is working as a chemist while she awaits the resumption of entries into the Peace Corps in preparation for an assignment in Kyrgyzstan. She plans to go into the field of translation and simultaneous interpretation with her background in Spanish, French, German, and Russian.

Below, Ilse herself describes winning the Fitzgerald scholarship and her experiences at Smith:

2015 — Emily Moss

Wellesley College

The Sunflower Initiative’s fourth recipient of the Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship was Emily Moss of Bedford, Massachusetts. During her senior year at Wellesley College, Emily was awarded a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. She was one of fifty-nine outstanding college students from fifty-two institutions selected as Truman Scholars.  Emily is currently working as a research assistant in economic studies at the Brookings Institute.

Emily Moss learns that she has won a Truman scholarship

Emily Moss learns that she has won a Truman scholarship

The Press Release announcing the Truman Scholars attested to the depth of Emily’s achievements at Wellesley. “Emily is an economics major at Wellesley College. She is committed to ensuring every neighborhood has equal access to opportunity, particularly through the creation of affordable housing. Emily has researched economic security and urban policy issues with Wellesley’s Department of Economics, MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the New Economy Project, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and the Boston City Council. She has also applied her research interests to service work in her community, volunteering as a staff member at the student-run Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and as a representative in her local Town Meeting.”

In her essay accompanying her application for the

Fitzgerald Scholarship, she wrote with excitement about her desire to be in an environment where it is the norm for women to hold positions of leadership and study whatever field they choose. She wrote, “When you are surrounded by the expectation that every woman is doing something amazing with her time you naturally grow accustomed to women’s leadership and adopt the mentality that you can do anything. My career, as is any endeavor, is undoubtedly possible – because in every other room, I’m treated like a woman; at Wellesley, I’m treated like a person.”

2014 — Marley Forest

Wellesley College

Marley Forest of Bend Oregon, the third recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship, graduated in June 2018 from Wellesley College where she majored in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. She was a Madeleine Albright Institute Fellow while at Wellesley, one of approximately 40 students chosen from across the majors and disciplines to participate in the program each year. During the Institute, the Fellows work in multidisciplinary groups to address significant global challenges. After weeks of research, collaboration, and expert interviews, the Fellows make presentations to the Mary Jane Durnford ’59 Distinguished Visiting Professor. (from the Albright Fellow website). Marley was also honored by her classmates to serve as the senior class student commencement speaker. Marley is currently working for US Senator Jeff Merkley in Bend, Oregon.

The 2014 applicant pool for The Fitzgerald Scholarship was the strongest in the history of the scholarship. As an International Baccalaureate student at Bend High School, Marley’s curriculum was the most rigorous possible in an American public high School. Marley’s high school activities spanned music, sports and community service.

After being at Wellesley for a short time Marley said, ”Every woman I have met here has done so much and will do so much, and it is incredible to know that here at Wellesley all of these bright women will be given the space and the resources to flourish in their careers and lives after college. I feel that I am beginning to now truly understand why a women’s college education is so important.”

2013 — Chelsea Osademe

Spelman College

Chelsea Osademe of Pine Bluff, Arkansas was the 2013 recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship. She received the Fitzgerald Scholarship while studying at Spelman College where she was involved with NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps with Morehouse College), was a Senior Resident Advisor, served as the Freshman Class Council Treasurer, and was a member of the English Club and Senior Class Council. She was involved with Peace and Love AUC (Atlanta University Center), the African Student Association, and the Spelman College Granddaughter’s Club.

Chelsea attended the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) summer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was awarded a Master’s degree (2019) in English at Kansas State University where she received a “Graduate of the Year” award by the K-State Black Student Union.

Chelsea found that attendance at a woman’s college was the best environment for her to develop “from a girl to a strong woman … where my dreams can come to fruition.” Reflecting on her first year at Spelman, Chelsea said, “Without the aid of the Sunflower Initiative Scholarship, I would not have the wonderful opportunity of attending Spelman College. Attending an all-women’s college is a privilege and joy not known to many. It has afforded me the opportunity to grow in a community full of beautiful, talented, competitive, and loving women who are amazingly diverse, yet just like me.”

2012 — Aastha Sharma

Wesleyan College

Aastha Sharma, our first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, graduated summa cum laude from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Aastha had a double major, Applied Mathematical Science and Chemistry, and she completed an Honors Program entitled “Molecular Dynamics Study of Plasticity during Nanoindentation of Copper Crystals.” For each of her four years at Wesleyan, Aastha received the $10,000 Fitzgerald Scholarship, and we take great pride in her accomplishments at an all women’s college. Aastha is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

At Wesleyan, Aastha was involved with campus life through the SGA and the KME Math Club. In her role as President of the Math Club, she coordinated events to encourage young women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields and she conducted tutoring sessions to help students develop basic math skills.

Aastha also had two summer internships at SAKHI (an anti-domestic violence organization primarily serving the South Asian community in New York City) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (in Germany) where she was “encouraged to push boundaries and to work diligently to pursue [her] dreams, while advocating for those voices [that] might be silenced or unheard.”

Reflecting on her experiences at a woman’s college, Aastha stated, “If I had not been surrounded by smart, ambitious, intelligent and driven women in a multicultural environment, I would not be the confident woman I am today.”

See what Aastha has to say about the impact of The Sunflower Initiative:

Ready to experience what a women’s college has to offer?

You’ll find…

  • an academic community dedicated to building your self-confidence and leadership skills.
  • a place where your opinions are valued and you are encouraged to express them.
  • a supportive environment to prepare you for a more abundant life.

The Sunflower Initiative may help give you the resources to get there.