Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Lunsford and Ryan Anderson

Students awarded Rotary grant to pursue graduate studies abroad

Two USC students are getting the opportunity to further their graduate studies abroad next year with help from the local Rotary district.

Fourth-year public health student Ryan Anderson and first-year graduate student Rachel Lunsford are being awarded the Rotary Global Grant that will allow them to pursue master's degrees in public health and international business respectively.

Rotary Global Grants are privately funded scholarships that can be worth over $30,000, and are given to students for one year of graduate study abroad. Both Anderson and Lunsford are being sponsored by Rotary District 7770 of Eastern South Carolina.

Anderson is planning to study at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He said that believes the award is going to give him a tremendous experience in being able to study disease prevention.

"It's an absolute dream come true to be able to pursue a master's in public health, and then to be able to do it at no cost to myself," he said. "And more importantly, I think to be able to do it in a different culture, with different people and in an area that's really a hot zone for a lot of the diseases and prevention methods that I'm interested in."

Anderson has been heavily involved with organizations at USC such as Student Government, where he served as the chair of the Student Services Committee. He is also a member of the Phi Delta Epsilon pre-medical fraternity.

More notably, Anderson has started his own organizations that have real-world impact. He founded the Relearn Organization in 2012, which gives school supplies to children in need. He is the co-founder of Han'Go International — a group that redistributes medical supplies to low-income communities. 

In addition, he has led many trips to Jamaica with Pivotal Directions, a non-profit organization that does medical field work in places ravaged by poverty and infectious diseases. Since then, he has been called back multiple times to serve as an assistant director for the foundation.

"That opened my eyes a little bit more to the public health prevention side of things," Anderson said. "It opened my eyes to some of the disparities facing the world. And that even in a place like Jamaica, which is a relatively developed country with a big tourist industry, there are communities everywhere ... that have significant burdens of disease and infectious diseases."

While planning to mainly focus on his academics while in South Africa, Anderson still hopes to be involved with doing research and helping people in need.

"In South Africa, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are the probably the biggest infectious disease issues and [there are] also a lot of low income communities where there's some significant medical disparities — and that's the stuff I'm really interested in," he said. "I don't know what that will look like, but I'm hopefully going to jump on a project and work on that."

Following graduate school, Anderson will pursue a medical degree and wants to study either infectious diseases or internal medicine. In the long term, he plans to help work on international health care policy as well.

Lunsford graduated from USC in May 2017 with a undergraduate degree in international business. She will use her grant money to continue her graduate work in the United Kingdom at either the University of Cambridge or King's College in London. 

Specifically, Lunsford plans to study peace and conflict resolution and prevention, one of the Rotary's areas of focus. She plans to conduct research during Great Britain's exit from the European Union, a process that will begin next year, to observe the economic and political effects.

"That's triggered a lot of change in the region, and especially as they will be going through this process now through next year," she said. "It is the perfect time to be able to go and conduct real time research on Brexit, how this has affected political opinions, and how they have been changed and shaped over time."

During her time at USC, Lunsford was an active member of the university's own Rotaract Club, which she joined her freshman year. She would eventually become president of the organization.

"I joined ... looking for a way to get involved in the USC community as well as our Columbia community as a whole, and wanted a way to give back," she said. "Applying for the Rotary Global Grant had always been a goal."

Lunsford was a member of Student Government and served as the director of external affairs for the vice president. With Student Government, she was one of eight who served on the Congressional Advisory Board and had the opportunity to lobby U.S. Congressmen in Washington, D.C.

She was also a member of the first-place team at the International Case Competition in Spain, which she became involved with through the business school.

After her graduate degree, Lunsford has tentative plans to attend law school. She hopes to focus her career on the area where politics, business and law intersect and how these ideas affect people living all over the globe.

"I realized that my real legacy will be not just that I've been able to check things off a box ... that I was able to complete things ... and getting all these awards. That's great and all, but that's not a real legacy," she said. "Doing work like international relations and international law ... you're actually doing things that impact a large variety of people."



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