Juniors Present Summer Experience at International Conference

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: December 13, 2019

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (August 16, 2013)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) juniors Joseline Cortez and Dan Walters recently presented their research at the inaugural International Conference on the Arts and Humanities: “Bridges across Cultures” in Perugia, Italy. Both students’ participation was sponsored by W&J’s Magellan Project.

The conference provided an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various arts- and humanities-related fields from all over the world to come together and learn from each other. This conference served as a place for academicians and professionals with related cross-disciplinary interests to meet and interact with members inside and outside their own particular disciplines.

“The two students were able to interact and engage with scholars from more than 20 different countries as well as experts on all facets of Italian life and culture,” said H.J. Manzari, associate professor of Spanish at W&J. “This was a life-changing experience for all of us involved, both faculty and students, and we hope more Magellan scholars will join us in two years in Florence.”

The Umbra Institute, which sponsored the conference in conjunction W&J, was founded in 1999 in Perugia, in cooperation with Arcadia University, as a center for higher education offering academic programs for students of U.S. colleges and universities.

A graduate of YES Prep Public Schools and resident of Houston, Texas, Cortez is an international studies and Spanish major with a communication arts minor. Through the Magellan Project, Cortez traveled to Italy and Spain this summer to look at Latin American immigration. She studied the many reasons that people decided to leave their homes in Latin America and move to Europe. Many moves were due to job lost, a search for a better future or better education, she said.

“This opportunity plays a role in my career path following graduation because I want to attend law school and become an immigration lawyer,” Cortez added.

A resident of Clarion, Pa., and graduate of Clarion Area High School, Walters is a business and political science double major planning to attend law school after earning his undergraduate degree at W&J.

Walters traveled to Italy this summer to study the current relevancy of the papacy, thanks to the W&J Magellan Project. He studied at the North American College in Rome, where he interviewed a number of priests and a Vatican official as part of his research. The North American College in Rome houses 250 individuals studying the Catholic faith and priesthood.

“From there, I learned an incredible amount about the history of the papacy, where the papacy is today, and where it is headed in the future.  It was unbelievable to meet an individual, almost half way around the world, who knew about my home town and who was actually at my confirmation ceremony in my parish church, because he worked for the Bishop’s office at the time for the Diocese of Erie,” Walters said.

A proprietary offering for W&J students, the College’s Magellan Project provides scholarship funding for students to spend the summer months pursuing independent projects and internships that extend liberal arts learning outside the classroom. Established in 2008, a record 91 students applied and 65 accepted for Magellan scholarships this year.

“An experience like Magellan has really allowed me to feel more confident in my abilities not just as a student, but as an individual. It really was a growing experience for me, allowing me to take on a real sense of independence,” Walters said. “As far as my future is concerned, I now feel more confident in stepping outside the box and trying new things.  I did not know how my Magellan was going to go, traveling to Europe for the first time, and traveling by myself for that matter, but that is what made it such an unforgettable experience for me.”

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