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Wrabel awarded duPont Fellowship

August 07, 2013

Maria WrabelStetson University alumna Maria Wrabel ’12, who graduated in Global Development Studies, a major she designed to reflect her strong passion for global issues, has been selected as one of only two college graduates to serve as a Fellow through the Jessie Ball duPont Fund Fellowship.

Having recently returned from her work in Vietnam with Volunteers in Asia, Wrabel has just begun as a Fellow in the program’s two-year period of work and study in philanthropy and charitable work in the American South. The program is designed to provide practical experience for students interested in careers in the independent sector, either with nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations or philanthropic organizations.

Since fall 2012, Wrabel was based in Vietnam, teaching Cultural Awareness and Intercultural Communication to students with bachelor’s degrees seeking advanced degrees through study abroad at Can Tho University’s Center for Foreign Languages. She partnered with Peacework Development Fund to run an English Club for Can Tho University students in a rural area, and to conduct community assessments of two villages in the Mekong Delta. She also worked as a volunteer for Heifer Vietnam, a branch of Heifer International, a global nonprofit with the goal of ending poverty and hunger.

“Vietnam was an amazing and challenging experience,” said Wrabel after returning recently to the States. “In addition to exploring Vietnam, I got to travel around Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand. You meet an incredible mix of people when living abroad. Of course, being abroad was hard sometimes. It’s not always as glamorous and exciting as people like to think it is. Living in a new culture, getting lost and being unable to ask for directions and being a minority challenges the core of who you are and the foundations of what you think.”

Before accepting the Fellowship, Wrabel was offered the chance to work in Indonesia for another year. She faced the hard decision of choosing whether or not to remain in the United States to work on issues with the Fellowship program, or follow her passion for food security in another country.

“I’ll admit that it was a difficult decision,” she explained. “And I did what I always do—made about ten pro/con lists, talked to anyone who would listen and drowned myself in hypotheticals. In deliberating over my options I also realized that in order to do the kind of work I want to do abroad I needed more professional experience. In Bonner, we talk about something called our “sweet spot”—the position in which doing what you love fulfills what a community needs. My offer in Indonesia was for another year of teaching English which I realized wasn’t my “sweet spot,” and doing that for another year wouldn’t be being true to myself.”

“It is good to have students so talented they are offered multiple opportunities at once,” said D. Gregory Sapp, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies and Hal S. Marchman chair of Civic and Social Responsibility at Stetson University. “But it is, at the same time, difficult to watch them anguish over such huge decisions.”

During her time at Stetson, Wrabel received numerous recognitions including Outstanding Freshman and Senior in the Bonner Scholars Program and Outstanding Senior in the Honors Program. She was inducted into four honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa; Omicron Delta Epsilon; Alpha Kappa Delta; and Sigma Tau Delta, and was a Truman Scholar Finalist. She tied with another graduating senior for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Stetson’s top leadership honor for graduating seniors, whose personal example and influence throughout the campus best exemplify the noblest human qualities and the finest values that Stetson nurtures.

“My participation in Stetson’s Bonner Scholars Program was most important to me,” said Wrabel in an earlier interview shortly before graduating from Stetson. “I was able to get involved in the community since my first day at Stetson in a variety of ways…from tutoring students at Woodward Elementary School, to volunteering at a local homeless shelter, to interning with Feeding Children Everywhere. Being the president of the Oxfam Club was also a highlight, as it gave me the chance to spread my passion for global issues to other members of the Stetson community.”

Fellows of the program are selected from a field of applicants nominated by the academic deans and presidents of the colleges and universities that are eligible for support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. The Fellows work as members of the staff with exposure to foundation governance, grant making, governmental oversight and industry events. They also participate in a nonprofit certificate course at a university.

by Kim Charles