“[She] never lets fear dictate any of her decisions.”
That’s how Kelly Douglas, alumni relations manager at Manhattan College and Kathleen White’s best friend, described her.
Kathleen White, a Manhattan College graduate holding a degree in history and peace studies, was one of the 12 scholars selected by the George J. Mitchell Scholarship committee.
A member of the class of 2014, White received the Gunn Medal, the college’s highest undergraduate honor, for her work on a variety of human rights issues during her four years at Manhattan, which she has continued after graduation.
The scholarship program was created by Trina Vargo, the founder of the US-Ireland Alliance. It’s a highly competitive and sought-after grant for graduate students in the U.S. This year, the nationwide competition attracted 323 applicants for the 12 scholarships.
According to the US-Ireland Alliance website, members of the 2018 class include a military veteran; a young man working for the city of Flint, Mich.; a young woman working to combat food insecurity in Kansas; a quarterback for an NCAA Division 1 football team; a future doctor who seeks to provide quality healthcare services to transgender people; and a future economist who serves as a research assistant in the White House Office the National Drug Control Policy.
Amongst them, one of our Jaspers shined. A social justice advocate, White joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college and worked for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth where she worked on abolishing juvenile life without parole. She will now be spending a year of post-graduate studies in the sociology program at the University College Cork in Ireland, starting this upcoming September.
“This experience will allow me to gain the research methods and international perspectives on criminal justice reform necessary to return to the United States with an expanded international network and advance my career as a better-informed and prepared advocate for juvenile justice issues,” White said.
White first learned about the Mitchell Scholarship from the Manhattan College Center for Graduate School and Fellowship Advisement.
“In August 2016, I left my full time position as a case manager at prisoner reentry program in order to focus on exploring postgraduate fellowships and applying for the Mitchell Scholarship and Fulbright grant,” White said.
After the complete scholarship application is submitted, the next round was a video application that consisted of recording herself answering random questions to make sure that her personality and answers reflected her written application.
After that, White went on a Skype interview and was asked questions very specific to criminal justice reform, prisoner reentry work, and how that related to her proposal to study sociology in Ireland.
“Within a day of the skype interview I received a call that I was selected as one of 20 finalists to go to Washington DC for a reception at the Irish Ambassador’s home and an interview with a 12-person selection committee,” White said.
Douglas is convinced that in-person interviews sealed the deal for White.
“There is no way that you can’t feel the passion and energy she possesses,” Douglas said.
For White, the entire process was pretty intense but also very rewarding.
“I worked very closely with Elly Mons was guided and supported by the Manhattan College History department” White said.
White’s best friend, Douglas, watched in awe.
“From the outside looking in, the application process was completely overwhelming. I mean, the sheer numbers alone intimidated me but she is an incredibly passionate and smart “student of life”, she was able to channel her nervous energy into bettering her application every step of the way,” Douglas said.
When asked about how the application process affected White’s social life, Douglas added:
“I’ve yet to see a process hinder Kathleen’s social relations. She made completing 2 senior seminars for her double majors, curating a library exhibit, working two jobs, honoring her extracurricular commitments, and applying and interviewing for post graduate volunteer programs during her senior year look almost effortless.”
For White, every time she got a call that she had moved forward was a celebration itself.
“When I found out I was selected I was literally speechless- it was such a crazy feeling. It still feels surreal!” White said.
White has a distinct passion for learning, an eye for detail, and a commitment to bettering herself and those in any community she is a part of.
“Professors and classmates alike still marvel at the sensation that is Kathleen White – taking on some of the hardest classes offered to undergraduate students in the school of arts, and still keeping spirits light with jokes and witty banter,” Douglas said.