The Mitchell Scholarship


Applications surge by 22% and diverse class reflects interest in social justice and Brexit


November 21, 2020 - The US-Ireland Alliance announced the 12 members of the George J. Mitchell Scholar Class of 2022 following virtual interviews earlier today. One of the country’s most prestigious scholarship programs, it sends future American leaders to the island of Ireland for a year of graduate study.


A record number of 453 individuals applied this year – a 22% increase over the previous record set two years ago. Half of the semifinalists and half of the finalists were people of color, another record. Thirty percent of the finalists were from universities or colleges not previously represented and 70% of this year’s applicants were women.


The program was founded and is led, by Trina Vargo. It is unique among the nation’s most prestigious scholarships in being founded and led by a woman. Speaking of the new class, Vargo said, “Several applicants spoke specifically of their preference for studying in Ireland vs. England. They compared the history of disenfranchisement in the US to that of Ireland’s suppression under British colonialism. Many are also interested in places, like Northern Ireland, that have wrestled with their own conflicts. Recipient Kieran Hampton said: “I too have lived a life noiselessly charged with sectarian tension and the residue of violence. I am attracted to the island of Ireland and feel I have much in common with it.” Whether recipients are interested in criminal justice reform, marginalized communities, Brexit, or big tech’s presence in Dublin, Ireland’s historic struggles and contemporary examples resonate. Also noted were the ties between the Indigenous and Irish peoples, including, the recent decision by Ireland Lacrosse to withdraw from the world tournament to support the inclusion of the Iroquois Nationals. 


Carolina Chavez, Director of the Mitchell Scholarship, spoke of the program’s requirements and process: “applicants must have records of academic achievement, service, and leadership. Finalists normally travel to Washington, DC to interview before a panel but due to Covid-19, the entire process was conducted online. Trina and I are excited to see so many impressive applicants from across the United States drawn to the unique graduate programs offered by our university partners on the island of Ireland. Our newly selected class will continue the Mitchell tradition of exploring new perspectives on contemporary issues, building skills, and relationships that will power the US-Ireland relationship in the years to come.”


Members of the selection committee included Monica Bell, a Mitchell Scholar alum and Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale; Justin McCarthy, Senior Vice President at the Patient & Health Impact group at Pfizer; Cóilín Parsons, Associate Professor of English, Georgetown University; and Ireland’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States, Emer Rocke.


Major supporters of the program include Ireland’s Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science; Morgan Stanley; Pfizer; and the Pritzker Foundation. The Scholars will begin their studies in Ireland in September 2021. 


George J. Mitchell Scholars, Class of 2022


Jonathan Chew is a senior at Baylor University where he studies Mathematics and Russian as part of the Baylor Business Fellows program. As a dual citizen of the US and the UK, he follows Brexit closely. He's been struck by how effectively the Leave campaign used data science to win an upset victory with a heavy investment in technology consulting and micro-targeted online messaging. The integral nature of data science in both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election led Jonathan to choose a major that would allow him to explore the mathematical and data analytics side of modern politics. Jonathan participates in Model UN, writes for the campus newspaper, The Standard, and participates in campus ministry service projects. He is currently doing an internship with AEI's Director of Russian Studies, Dr. Leon Aron. He researched China's media response to the Hong Kong protests and then presented his findings to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. Given the controversy surrounding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the aftermath of Brexit, Jonathan finds Ireland an interesting place to study how initiatives like the aforesaid referendum go from concept to reality and how data science can shape election outcomes. Jonathan will study Politics and Data Science at University College Dublin.


Meghan Davis is a senior and dual major in Biological Engineering and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An interdisciplinary researcher, Meghan is committed to tackling health inequities faced by vulnerable and marginalized communities. Currently, she is pursuing a mixed-methods approach to understand the cardiovascular disease disparities in urban Black women and interventions that can be implemented to reduce these disparities. She is collaborating with a local Black women's health organization to ensure the project is designed with the key stakeholders, Black women, at the reigns. While in high school, Meghan attended a summer program at MIT that was transformative. She is currently the Senior Director of BoSTEM Scholars Academy, a program that aims to bridge the racial and socioeconomic gap in STEM education through a 5-week summer program. She is an educator and on the Executive Board of PLEASURE: Peers Leading Education About Sexuality and Standing Up for Relationship Empowerment, an organization that acts to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) on campus. Meghan's service was honored earlier this year with the Martin Luther King Jr. Service award for "service to the community." She also received MIT's Bridge Builder award for her "strong commitment to and passion for diversity education and cultural celebration." Meghan's goal is to become a physician-scientist and will study Global Health at Trinity College Dublin.


Marilu Duque is pursuing an MSc in Information at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. Her work is at the nexus of national security, cybersecurity, machine learning (ML), and research. As a first-generation American from Florida, she was raised with profound patriotism towards the community that welcomed her Cuban refugee father and her Dominican mother. She learned early that technology has not always served vulnerable communities well. As an undergraduate at New York University, where she obtained her Bachelor's in Integrated Digital Media in 2019, Marilu was the NYC Regional Lead for the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Code as a Second Language program and taught 60 plus students in the Bronx. She has spoken at various conferences about her experience as a young Latina in STEM and her experience in higher education. She served as a Naval Research Enterprise intern at the US Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and an eIntern for the Department of State. She is currently a Cyber Threat Intelligence intern at FireEye where she identifies actionable intelligence to inform customers of potential cyber threats to critical infrastructure. Through her work, she came to learn about Ireland's National Cybersecurity Strategy, which made citizen security and privacy protections a top priority. Marilu will study Applied Cyber Security at Technological University Dublin.


Genevieve Finn recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, completing her English degree in 2.5 years while working part-time. She is currently a reporter at The Malibu Times, where she is working to create a Spanish-language insert in the paper's print edition to serve Malibu's Latinx day laborer commuter population. As a student journalist for the Daily Bruin's magazine, she wrote about racism faced by students studying abroad and launched a soon-to-be-published, months-long investigation into the data collection policies of a for-profit plagiarism-checking company used by UCLA. Genevieve spent most of 2019 abroad, interning with the New York Times' Australia Bureau and GQ Australia, studying in Ghana, and sailing via container ship from Hong Kong to Singapore, witnessing the long, lonely hours worked by sailors dedicated to getting people's stuff where it needs to go. She was awarded an Overseas Press Club Foundation fellowship for her writing about her voyage and will work at the Associated Press' Mexico City Bureau when travel is safe. She was also awarded a Steven Sotloff scholarship to become HEFAT-certified, which involves learning first-aid, digital hygiene, and undergoing riot and kidnapping simulations. Noting that most international coverage of Ireland focuses on The Troubles and Brexit, she plans to seek what is beyond the major narratives. Genevieve plans a career in long-form journalism and will study Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin.


Tawreak Gamble-Eddington is a senior studying Political Science and History at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is President of the Black Student Union, former President of Union Pride, and part of the local chapter of My Brother's Keeper (President Obama's mentoring program), which built space at Union to work with disadvantaged students in Schenectady. A resident of Springfield, Massachusetts, Ty is the Political Director of The Young Democrats of Massachusetts Black Caucus and worked with the ACLU and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to lobby the Massachusetts Senate to limit police qualified immunity. Ty founded The Marginalized View, a student organization that connects disadvantaged communities with elected officials and publishes a monthly graphic series about marginalized communities' plights and their historical contributions. As a Gilman Scholar, Ty traveled to Poland to study Holocaust history and Polish Jewry and volunteered with local Polish organizations and synagogues. Born to African American and Irish American parents, Ty hopes to continue researching his ancestry in Ireland. Though his great-grandmother grew up in an orphanage in the Boston-area, the family has traced her roots to Limerick. Planning for an eventual career at the intersections of law and minority advocacy, Ty will study Race, Ethnicity, Conflict at Trinity College Dublin.


Kiran Hampton recently graduated from Harvard University with High Honors in History and Literature. As the President of Harvard Radio Broadcasting, he ran the largest open organization on campus, setting and executing policy for a 24/7 commercial radio station with a large share of the Boston market. Kiran and his team grew WHRB administratively and financially while significantly increasing its membership and improving the quality of its broadcasting. Kiran is proficient in Arabic, was a Harvard Crimson Editorial Board Editor and tutored students for the citizenship exam. He interned for the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives and was a ghostwriter/speechwriter for a Democratic candidate for Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney. At present, he works with the Fairfax County NAACP, supporting their educational priorities and justice initiatives. Kiran's father is an Iraq War veteran and Kiran wrote "The last four generations of my family joined the army and … were both victims and agents of the white American imperial will." His academic interest is in administrative and economic institutions, "in particular, in the sliding schema of regulation, by which private organizations and the state enforce economic and social rules with maniacal harshness against the poor and flexible permissiveness against the powerful." Kiran has been admitted to Harvard Law. He will study Economics at Queen’s University Belfast.


Abigail Hickman is a senior at Columbia University where she majors in Anthropology. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, she is interested in Indigenous Futurisms, a subfield of speculative fiction that focuses on what decolonization might look like. She serves on Columbia's executive board of the Native American Council, where she spearheaded a successful petition for university recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day. She also interned with her tribe's Office of Government Relations. Abigail is enthusiastic about the University of Limerick's unique Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies as no work of Indigenous studies has adopted a Utopian mode of analysis. Ireland and Indigenous nations have a long history. During the Trail of Tears, Ireland sent provisions to the Five Tribes of Oklahoma. Following the Famine, the Five Tribes returned the favor. Abigail notes that this relationship revealed its unyielding strength as recently as this year when Irish citizens fundraised thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid for the Navajo and Hopi Nations, and when Ireland's lacrosse team bowed out of the sport's top international tournament to support the inclusion of the Iroquois Nationals. Today, Indigenous people still confront eliminatory systems of power and Abigail wants to imagine what might come next. She hopes to work as a professor at a university with a large Indigenous student population. She will study English at the University of Limerick.


Joy Nesbitt is a senior at Harvard University studying Social Anthropology and Music. A director, actress, and musician, she uses the arts to bring attention to social justice issues. She currently serves as Co-President of BlackCAST, where she organizes the annual Black Playwright's Festival and develops art that foregrounds Black dramatists and theater-makers. Joy revamped KeyChange, the acapella group focused on performing music from the African Diaspora, serving as President in the group's first returning year. As Inclusivity Chair of the Harvard Black Student Association, she led dialogues within the Black student community at Harvard and partnered with other campus groups for students of color to promote greater visibility on campus. She also planned community outreach initiatives to connect with Black high school and middle school students in the greater Boston area. For her senior thesis, she is currently studying GoGo music and its activism against gentrification and systematic disenfranchisement in Washington, DC. This summer, she directed several plays on Zoom, including a successful production of God of Carnage and Romeo & Juliet. Joy finds that her experience as a Black woman from the South is regularly affected and dependent upon a global history of colonialism, slavery, and systematic disenfranchisement. She sees a similarity with British colonialism's impact on Ireland. Joy will study Theatre Directing at The Lir Academy, Trinity College Dublin.


Maysa Sitar is a senior at Michigan State University where she studies Political Science. She became interested in voting at an early age while growing up in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As a sophomore, she petitioned her principal to offer the PSAT, which was not previously offered. As the MSU student body Vice President for Governmental Affairs, she has hosted on-campus debates for local elections, doubled dorm voter registration efforts, and create easy to read, nonpartisan guides for every election. MSU saw a 21 percent increase in the turnout rate for the 2018 midterm elections. Maysa also serves on the task force she advised Michigan's Secretary of State to create to focus on voting challenges by college-aged youth in Michigan. She serves as the first college student on the board of directors for East Lansing's local newspaper and is a representative on MSU's Police Oversight Committee. She interned with a local gubernatorial candidate in 2018 and most recently worked for the DC office of Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Maysa is currently conducting independent research to examine the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on electoral manipulation in countries with regularly scheduled elections during 2020. Maysa will study Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.


Amelia Steinbach is a senior at Duke University, where she is an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar – a prestigious four-year women's leadership program meant to replicate the benefit of women's colleges within a liberal arts education. A Political Science major, she is the primary instructor of a course that explores the history of women in the American government and the disproportionate impact of various policies on women and girls. As the VP of Engagement for the Women in Politics club, she coordinates opportunities for students to support women in public service professions and has led discussions between campus political groups. A member and former Chair of Duke's Honor Council, Amelia co-founded an annual women's rights film festival, which received an impact award from Duke's Women's Center. She also coordinated events and policy initiatives to address a variety of ethical issues. Amelia served as a research fellow for Kathy Manning's congressional campaign in North Carolina in 2018 and interned with U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in 2019. After the internship, the Washington Post published her editorial detailing the lack of race and gender diversity in the Senate Judiciary Committee's expert witness hearings. The piece emphasized the responsibility that leadership and staff in both parties have in addressing this imbalance. She will attend Harvard Law School in the fall of 2023. Amelia will study Gender, Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin.


Maura Welch is a speechwriter for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. She has written speeches about a host of local and national issues, including climate action and racial justice, and developed creative outreach materials including videos, opinion columns, and a podcast. She is especially adept at handling sensitive topics, such as the Trump Administration's changes to Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, the Mayor's commitment to protecting immigrants and refugees, the city's response to the opioid epidemic, and the murder of George Floyd. After graduating from The George Washington University with a degree in Environmental Studies in 2013, she worked for The Nature Conservancy's Islands Program on Martha's Vineyard where she managed communications for a new citizen science program, developed educational curricula for the public school system, and coordinated sustainability projects. She then spent two years directing youth programs for Portland Parks and Recreation in Oregon. Maura ran the 2020 Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Martin Richard Foundation, which supports affordable youth sports, arts, and educational programs, with an emphasis on inclusion for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Maura sees clear parallels between COVID-19 and the climate crisis and is ready to play a bigger role in promoting sustainability and equity in Boston. She will study Comparative Social Change at Trinity College Dublin. 


Selena Zhao was selected last year for a Mitchell Scholarship, but a sports-related injury resulted in her deferral to the Class of 2022. Selena graduated in May 2020 from Harvard with a degree in Government. As a student, she researched consociationalism and the impact of this form of power-sharing. She has explored the topic in Nigeria, Lebanon, and wrote her senior thesis on the Good Friday Agreement and how it incentivizes the ethnonational divide for political gain. Selena has worked as a research assistant for several Harvard professors and contributed to Professor Steve Levitsky’s bestseller How Democracies Die. In London, she interned with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, researching a UK centrist platform. She led several model UN organizations for Harvard, including the largest high-school Model UN conference in the South Asian circuit. Before university, Selena was a competitive figure skater for the Canadian International Team and was the 2015 Junior National Champion. She managed and performed at An Evening with Champions, a yearly fundraiser for pediatric cancer research. She will study Conflict Transformation at Queen’s University Belfast.