MSU Graduate Recipient of Rotary Scholarship -- Lanier to Study in Ireland

Kristin Lanier visited Ireland during a mini-vacation when she was in Great Britain with the Midwestern State University Study Abroad program. She fell in love with the Emerald Isle and wanted to go back. Her wish will come true because Kristin is the recipient of a Rotary Global International Scholarship that will send her back to Ireland to earn a master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Magee College campus of Ulster University in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Kristin graduated in May with a degree in theatre from MSU's Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts, and she received the President's Medal of Excellence. She didn't know anything about the Rotary Club or the $30,000 scholarship until Honors Program Coordinator Juliana Felts introduced her to the organization. Felts has been involved in Rotary as an Ambassadorial Alumna since she received a scholarship to study in France in 2008, and has participated in the training program for new scholars almost every year since. She was familiar with the application process.

"Rotary North in Wichita Falls always does a great job letting MSU know when the scholarship applications are open for the Global Scholar program," Felts said. "I had a few Honors students in mind who I thought might be interested. Kristin was at the top of that list - she is an outstanding Honors student, and her previous travels give her an excellent background to succeed as a Global Scholar in Ireland."

One of the first things Felts noticed when she interviewed Kristin about the scholarship was that she was laid back and flexible. "Any time you are going to be living abroad for any amount of time, flexibility is a necessary characteristic," Felts said.

The Global Grant application process is not an easy one. Kristin and Felts met multiple times with Rotary North of Wichita Falls, and each time Kristin made revisions and accepted suggestions the club offered without becoming frustrated with the application process.

The Troubles, the common name for Ireland's 30-year conflict, began in Londonderry, where Kristin will be studying. Protestant unionists wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom but Catholic republican nationalists wanted to become part of the Republic of Ireland. Although the situation has been in a peace-building state since 1998, the process is ongoing. Building peace after conflict involves rebuilding relationships.

"I wanted to be exposed to something new and realized that Northern Ireland would be an ideal place to study different approaches to peace building, what happens when peace comes after conflict, ways to come back from conflict, and how to promote understanding between parties," Kristin said.

Kristin is the oldest sibling in a closely knit family, and has played peacemaker for her younger siblings many times. When she was 13, she traveled to Australia as a student ambassador with the People to People program and is grateful for all she learned about Australian culture. She is still in contact with her Australian "mom." Her key lesson from Australia was that people can find peace through understanding each other.

Since the Australian trip, Kristin has participated in church missions to Houston and Washington, D.C. She has taught Bible classes to 4-year-olds where she learned that the secret to keeping peace among youngsters is to keep them involved. Kristin graduated from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in Dallas. While working on her theatre degree at MSU, she became involved in social justice theater, which gives voice to those who may not be strong enough to speak for themselves and that may have helped Kristin secure her Rotary scholarship. "Kristin's strong passion for using theater as a community outreach tool came across well in the Rotary interview," Felts said.

Kristin will be writing blog posts to keep friends and family updated about her life in Northern Ireland. Although she has been out of the country before, her family is somewhat nervous for her safety in Londonderry this coming year so she is taking self-defense courses. Otherwise, she is ready to start her next journey and encourages anyone with the opportunity to travel abroad to take advantage of it. "Traveling abroad is letting go and opening up to new ways of thinking and seeing that the world is full of diversity," Kristin said.

Kristin has since learned more about Rotary's mission of community service and bettering yourself and the community you serve. She attended Rotary meetings and gave a presentation about community involvement and how that can have positive effects on society. She will have a support team in the Irish Rotary members. She will prepare progress reports and a final report which summarizes her studies, the relationship to her area of focus, and her Rotary and community involvement.

"The Rotary Global Grant will likely open many doors for Kristin, and I look forward to watching her grow through this wonderful opportunity and to hearing her stories when she returns," Felts said. "She has a unique vision for making the world a better place, and I know she will do great things."