Lander University junior Beth Burnette loves to travel. The Elberton, Ga., native spent 15 days in Japan as part of a high school exchange program, and she has traveled to Spain.
Next fall, she will be off to Spain again, this time as part of Lander's Study Abroad program, and she is going with significant financial assistance thanks to Rotary International District 6910, headquartered in Gainesville, Ga. Burnette has received a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship worth $11,000 to underwrite expenses associated with her semester of study next fall at Sociedad Hispano Mundial, The World Hispanic Society, in Granada, which specializes in Spanish language courses.
Burnette is enrolled in Lander's Honors Program, which promotes a global perspective in all academic areas. Faculty from each of Lander's four colleges teach honors seminars, and students also spend a semester studying abroad at one of Lander's partner schools in Europe.
Dr. John Moore, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Honors Program, said Burnette's HIP studies and completion of the Lander President's Leadership Program when she was a freshman provided her with the kind of academic experience and training necessary to compete for the Rotary scholarship. He added, "Lander's Honors Program is still the only honors program in South Carolina whose mission so clearly matches that of Rotary and other special scholarships."
Burnette is majoring in political science and Spanish and, as a Spanish major, she is required to spend at least one semester in a Spanish-speaking country as part of her degree requirements.
Dr. DeWitt Stone, director of Lander's Study Abroad program, said Burnette will be the first Lander student to study at the school in Granada. "Lander typically sends its Study Abroad Spanish students to programs in Seville or Barcelona."
Stone added that three students recently completed studies in Spain and seven more, including Burnette, are scheduled to spend a semester at Spanish schools in the coming academic year.
The Rotary Ambassadorial program is the largest privately funded international scholarship program. It was founded in 1947 to further understanding and friendly relations between citizens of different countries and geographical areas.
Burnette was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by Rotarian Sandra Brown, an owner of Tena's Fine Jewelry in Elberton where Burnette worked part time while in high school. As for being selected for the award, she said, "I am very fortunate. It is an honor."
George Bailey, who chairs District 6910's Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee, said when the committee interviewed Burnette, she demonstrated the qualities of an Ambassadorial Scholar. In that role, she will serve as a goodwill ambassador and give presentations about her homeland to Rotary clubs and other groups in the Spanish city where she will be studying. She said she looks forward to that. "I like working with people," she said.
Bailey noted that committee members found Burnette to be highly motivated, intelligent, articulate, organized and hard working. He cited Burnette's high level of academic achievement, excellent leadership potential and commitment to community service as being among deciding factors in her selection.
Burnette's decision to enroll at Lander was prompted by memories of visiting the university when her cousin, Cherie Schlock Dove, was a student there. Dove graduated from Lander in 1998. Burnette, who was about six years when she visited Lander, said, "I remember experiencing university life, including eating in the student dining hall and going to the library."
Lander was the only college she applied to because she felt it was the right fit for her. "I'm from a small town and Lander is a small school. And it is only about 45 miles from my home in Elberton."
At Lander, she is a Presidential Ambassador, member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, chair of the student Republican Club and spends time tutoring her Spanish classmates.
After graduation, Burnette wants to work in international relations and is thinking about pursuing a doctorate in public administration, which is her minor.
She is the daughter of Bob and Rina Thomas of Elberton. She has a sister, BJ, 12, a student at Elbert County Middle School who plans to follow her big sister to Lander.