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Detwiler named Mitchell Scholar, will study in Ireland

by Whitney Bossie,
  • Senior Breanna Detwiler will spend a year at University College Cork, where she will begin to pursue a degree in law. Photo submitted.

Senior Breanna Detwiler has been named a 2009-2010 George J. Mitchell Scholar. She is the first Elon student to receive the award.

The award is sponsored by the nonprofit U.S.-Ireland Alliance, which is dedicated to strengthening relations between the United States and Ireland. It was created 10 years ago in honor of a former senator who helped broker a peace accord in Northern Ireland.

Twelve scholars were chosen out of a pool of 300 applicants from colleges and universities across the country. The scholarship funds one year of postgraduate study in any discipline that is offered at a college or university in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

After graduating in May, Detwiler will spend a year at University College Cork to work toward earning a master’s degree in law. She will then return to the United States to continue her education.

“Being a Mitchell Scholar means a great deal to me,” Detwiler said. “It means the opportunity to study law in Ireland and really gain an international perspective into the issues I have been studying domestically, which will help me tremendously in my work after law school.”

Detwiler is an environmental studies major, with minors in non-violence and religious studies. She plans to study environmental law.

Detwiler began the application process as soon as she returned to campus after summer break. She worked closely with associate professor Janet Myers, who is Elon’s coordinator of national and international fellowships, to polish her application before sending it off in early October.

In late October, she was asked to visit Arlington, Va. for semi-finalist interviews. She was then asked to visit Washington, D.C. for finalist interviews on Nov. 22.

Detwiler was notified of her selection that evening after the finalist interviews, as she and her mom headed to the train station.

“I was very excited,” she said. “My mom and I were dancing all over the car. I couldn’t believe it for days, especially after meeting all the amazing finalists and hearing about their remarkable work. I felt like I had to be dreaming.”

Myers, who first met Detwiler through her former role as associate director of the Honors program, said she was “delighted,” but not surprised by Detwiler’s accomplishment.

“The Mitchell Scholarship was a great match to Breanna’s interests and talents,” Myers said. “The foundation seeks students who have demonstrated records of academic excellence, leadership and a commitment to community service. Bre has excelled in all of these areas at Elon and has managed to blend her academic success with significant work outside the classroom.”

Detwiler is an Honors Fellow and is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. She is involved in several campus organizations, including Students for Peace and Justice, College Democrats and the Student Environmental Sustainability Council. Detwiler currently serves as the student coordinator of the Elon Academy and manages the Elon Community Garden.

In addition to being named a Mitchell Scholar, Detwiler was chosen as a 2008 Truman Scholar and a 2008 Udall Scholar. It was the first time an Elon student received either honor.

“She has achieved a number of ‘firsts’ in Elon’s fellowship program,” Myers said.

The selection committee for the 2009-2010 scholars was composed of leaders of various fields, including a writer for The New Yorker, a former NASA astronaut, the CEO of Kiva.org and Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States.