Lola Oke offered words of advice to the latest two University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students awarded summer research opportunities with Canadian universities.
“I got out of the experience what I put into it,” said Oke, a UTC junior majoring in political science and a Brock Scholar in the Honors College. “It opened a lot of doors for me in terms of the research that can help towards my graduate school applications.”
In 2021, Oke became the University’s first student to be accepted into the Fulbright Canada Mitacs Globalink program, an international education experience under the Fulbright umbrella for U.S. students interested in traveling to Canada to undertake advanced research projects in their area of interest.
The UTC trailblazer is now one of three, followed by Emma Sprayberry and Christine Rukeyser heading across the northern border this summer to participate in research projects.
Sprayberry, an Innovations in Honors student pursuing a degree in humanities: international studies with an emphasis in Asian studies, will be traveling to the University of Saskatchewan to participate in “School Leadership Preparation for Immigrants and Refugees.”
“I’m excited but nervous about going there because (Saskatoon) is not a big city in Canada. I looked at pictures and it seems similar to Chattanooga, but it’s exciting to go to a different area and meet new people,” said Sprayberry, who grew up in Rossville, Georgia.
“I want to teach English as a second language, so I definitely think helping immigrants and refugees with school preparation falls into what I’m interested in.”
This will be her second straight summer going on an out-of-country adventure. Sprayberry, who is on pace to graduate in December 2023, spent last summer studying in South Korea thanks to a U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and a Freeman-ASIA Scholarship.
“I’m hoping to study abroad in Korea again,” she said, “and I think this summer’s research will help me better understand how to find resources and interact with people for more academic purposes.”
Rukeyser, a junior majoring in chemistry and an Innovations in Honors student, is the first UTC student in recent years in the STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) fields to receive a Fulbright internship. She will participate in a University of Ottawa research project called “Making it with Gold.”
The project will concern the use of gold catalysis for the synthesis of various heteroaromatic motifs frequently found in the structure of compounds relevant to the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries.
“Synthetic chemistry is starting from point A and performing a series of reactions to get a desired product,” said Rukeyser, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I enjoy being in the lab combining reagents, performing reactions and obtaining desired products.”
Last summer and during winter break, Rukeyser—whose career plans include going to medical school and combining her research prowess with patient care—was a research and development intern at Colonial Chemical in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
“I did various amounts of chemical testing,” she said, “and really liked organic synthesis chemistry. I knew I liked that before doing the internship, but seeing what I’ve learned being applied in industry was interesting.”
Oke’s Fulbright Canada research fellowship last year was held in a virtual format, working with a University of Victoria-led team on a project titled “Racial Uprisings and the Responsiveness of Governments.” At the same time, she was one of 20 undergraduates selected as a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program Scholar, attending classes and events online at diverse locations around Washington, D.C.
Her success in landing national competitive awards continues. She will spend this summer at Princeton University after being awarded a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute Fellowship, a rigorous academic graduate-level preparation program for undergraduate juniors committed to public service careers.
Oke said participation in the PPIA program will potentially make it more economically feasible for her to attend graduate school right after obtaining her undergrad degree in 2023, as it offers a $5,000 scholarship at a PPIA consortium graduate school. Other consortium institutions include Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Washington and University of California, Berkeley.
“The Princeton University PPIA program is focused on economics, statistics and public policy-making and how all of those things intersect with international relations and international affairs,” Oke said.
“The intersection of all those courses will give me a perfect supplement to what I’m already doing at UTC through the Political Science and Public Service department.”
After spending last summer behind a computer screen from her home in the Atlanta suburbs instead of in D.C. and Canada, Oke is looking forward to the in-person experience at Princeton.
“I am excited to be in a learning environment with a bunch of student thinkers, critical thinkers, student leaders and public servants,” she said, “just learning about the art of public service from a multitude of perspectives. And I’m looking forward to growing my network, too, with the students attending the fellowship program with me.”
Three other UTC juniors were recent recipients of the Gilman Scholarship, awarding students of limited financial means the opportunity to study or intern abroad.
Biology major Jayden Mejia will have a study abroad experience in the Turks and Caicos Islands, communication major Nardia Ingram will study in Italy, and Innovations in Honors student Julie Goonetilleke—a humanities: international studies and Spanish double major—will study in Spain.