Six new Plastino Scholars to pursue varied off-campus learning experiences
Pictured are, from left, Matthew Watters, Liza Melms, Rina Binder-Macleod, David Plastino, Mary McCartin and Daniel Childs. Not pictured is Monica Trobagis, who is studying abroad in Spain.


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2:49 p.m., April 30, 2010----In locations from Sudan to Indonesia to Queens, N.Y., the 2010 Plastino Scholars at the University of Delaware will engage in such varied activities as biking 3,000 miles across the U.S., studying medicinal plants in the Peruvian jungle and exploring the role that head coverings play in the lives of young Muslim women.

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The six new recipients of the competitive enrichment grants, which were created in 2007 by alumnus David Plastino to allow talented students to pursue a passionate interest, are juniors Rina Binder-Macleod, Daniel Childs, Mary McCartin, Liza Melms, Matthew Watters and Monica Trobagis. They will receive study grants for a specific project each student proposed and which is expected to make a transformational difference in their lives by enabling them to pursue an off-campus learning experience that would not otherwise have been possible.

The new group of scholars, along with the four who were selected in 2009 and David Plastino, were recognized at a reception and dinner on campus Thursday evening. Plastino, who graduated in 1978 with a degree in chemistry, has said he established the program after his daughter benefited from a similar initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and he heard students there talk about what the unique enrichment opportunity had meant to them.

The 2010 Plastino scholars will use their awards for a wide variety of projects:

Binder-Macleod, an environmental engineering major in the University Honors Program from Newark, Del., plans to bicycle across the country, visiting and studying bike-friendly communities that have set up successful bike cooperatives. After returning to Delaware, she hopes to use what she learned to organize programs to promote bicycle use on the UD campus and in the community.

Childs, a biological sciences and anthropology major from Marlton, N.J., will travel to Peru to conduct field research in medicinal plants used by the Shipibo people there, studying with a village shaman and collecting various specimens. He plans to continue these ethnobotanical studies when he returns to the University and later to attend graduate school.

McCartin, of Hempstead, N.Y., who is majoring in international relations and European studies and is an Honors Program student, will take part in a building project in Ghana, spending the summer building and repairing homes, schools, libraries and other structures essential to the community and its development.

Melms, an international relations major in the Honors Program from Madison, Wis., plans to travel to Egypt and Indonesia, where she will visit schools, women's organizations and mosques to study how the hijab affects women's public and private lives and to improve her own mastery of Arabic. She expects to bring back to the U.S. information about how women in Islamic nations feel about their role in society.

Watters, of Ramsey, N.J., a neuroscience major interested in a career in healthcare policy, will visit Sudan to work with Merlin, an organization specializing in rebuilding health services in an area while providing health care during times of crisis. He plans to evaluate systems of infection prevention at two hospitals and provide training for some of the staff.

Trobagis, an international relations and history major from Acton, Mass., who is an Honors Program student, plans to study the lives of immigrants in Queens, N.Y. She will be learning how to conduct fieldwork under the guidance of Patricia Sloane-White, assistant professor of anthropology at UD.

Also attending the dinner were the current year's scholars, who have completed their projects supported by the grant. They are Laura Schwartz, who recently completed an honors degree in international relations and Spanish, whose project concerned HIV/AIDS awareness in Africa; Rita Chang, a senior majoring in social responsibility in the textile and apparel industry, who worked as an intern with Nike on social responsibility projects; Mary Paolantonio, a senior marketing major who studied marine biology during a sailing expedition in the British Virgin Islands; and Ariel Wilson, a senior marketing and management major, who studied child labor in India, while working with street children.

Article by Ann Manser
Photo by Kathy Atkinson