Magellan scholars to start international exploration for 2017 projects

Created: May 22, 2017
Last Updated: July 9, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (May 22, 2017) – While many college students head to their hometowns for the summer, a group of undergraduates from Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) take on scholarly projects all over the world.

The 104 Magellan Project scholars are the largest group to date, as W&J’s signature program celebrates its 10th year of funding student’s independent projects and internships to extend the liberal arts education outside of the classroom.

Students plan and organize every aspect of their projects, from arranging their own travel and accommodations to designing their project curriculum, with guidance from Tyler Tenney, coordinator for co-curricular innovation.

Retiring President Tori Haring-Smith has worked hard to implement the Magellan Project as a mainstay of education at W&J and spoke to this year’s class of scholars.

“When you’re out there in the world, you will solve your own problems,” she said. “You’ll have to work it out yourself. You will find creative ways. We’ve had amazingly creative people out there.”

Students have completed more than 500 projects thanks to more than $1 million in funding since the Magellan Project was founded, and Dr. Haring-Smith said she is proud the program is endowed and will continue at the school after her retirement.

Dr. Haring-Smith said she championed the program because of the opportunities for growth it affords to students.

Students will document their trips with online blogging platforms, but there are no formal papers or tests, a feature of the program Dr. Haring-Smith advocated for.

“No one knows if you get an ‘A’ except you,” she said. “You beat yourself up or you give yourself a break, and in so doing, you learn a lot about who you are, what your ethics are, what your values are, and what you care about. For that reason, I didn’t want you trying to meet anybody else’s expectations. I didn’t want you trying to write a paper for a professor. It’s all about you.”  

This year’s Magellan scholars are taking on a wide variety of projects with focuses in several subject areas.

Madison Babicka ’18 will be pursuing a continuation of her project for her junior MathTalk course based on symmetry groups and wallpaper patterns. Using mathematical theories, Babicka will analyze wallpaper patterns in Spain and Portugal, and she’ll post photos and her analysis of the wallpapers on her blog.

This is Babicka’s second Magellan Project, and she recognizes the unique opportunity the program presents to students.

“I think the Magellan award is an incredible opportunity. This award has allowed me to see parts of the world and experience things I would never have the chance to without it,” she said.

Megan Wang ’18 will be taking on her third Magellan Project as she travels to Nairobi, Kenya, and Mwanza, Tanzania, to study healthcare in these regions, with a focus on available vaccinations. She will research how the doctors’ strike in Kenya has affected the people and will volunteer at various clinics and hospital.

In the past, Wang studied in Taiwan to learn more about her own Taiwanese heritage.

“The Magellan Project renewed my desire for adventure and for experiencing more of the world,” she said. “My projects allowed me to really stretch my comfort zone because of the different languages, culture, and daily life. I learned how to adapt, and that I have the ability to adapt to changes.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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