Our Stories

Two Willamette Alums Named Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars

Jerome Kim '03, of Bellingham, Wash., and Marcus Thierren '05, of Boise, Idaho, have been selected as Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholars. The prestigious $26,000 scholarships will enable Kim and Thierren to travel and study for a year in a foreign country. Kim, who will depart this December, will study in Mexico or Chile; Thierren, who leaves in February 2007, will be posted in Chile, Argentina or Uruguay.

The Rotary Foundation's Ambassadorial Program, the oldest and largest such program in America, is designed to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries. Kim and Thierren will serve as ambassadors of goodwill to the people of their host countries. In addition to pursuing studies at a university, the men will participate in Rotary service projects and give presentations about the United States and their home states to Rotary clubs and other groups in their host countries. When they return, they will share their experiences with Rotarians and others. Kim and Thierren join nearly 37,000 Rotary Ambassadors from around the world who have traveled and studied in more than 70 nations.

"I'm ecstatic about this honor," said Kim in an email interview from the Dominican Republic where's he's finishing a 27-month Peace Corps assignment. "This scholarship will enable me to study international business development for one year in an MBA program."

Kim, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and Spanish from Willamette, is no stranger to international travel and service. As an undergraduate, he studied abroad for a semester in Seville, Spain. During the summer between his junior and senior years, he traveled to South Korea to teach English. The past two years, he's worked in youth programs, economic development and health education in the Dominican Republic.

His Willamette study abroad experience, Kim insisted, has steered his path. "Studying abroad in Spain really piqued my interest in international travel. John Uggen, a Spanish professor at Willamette, had been in the Peace Corps and his experiences really motivated me to join."

Kim's liberal arts education at Willamette has been key to his success in the Peace Corps and in his latest honor with the Rotary. "Willamette allows students to find their own interests and challenge themselves. The opportunities are there for those who choose to take advantage of them. Willamette taught me how to think, which is the most important aspect of a liberal arts education."

Kim, who plans a career in corporate social responsibility and international business development, has embraced Willamette University's motto, "not unto ourselves alone are we born," as his life's mission. "Service to others is incredible," he said. "Regardless of its form - Peace Corps, Big Brother/Big Sister, or serving at soup kitchens - service to others is what I find the most rewarding."

Thierren graduated in 2005 with a bachelor of arts degree in politics and economics. "When I first heard I'd won the Rotary, I felt a little overwhelmed," he admitted. "It's something I've wanted to do for a number of years. I know several Rotarians and they all encouraged me to apply."

Like Kim, Thierren's study abroad experience at Willamette piqued his interest in international politics and travel. "Willamette enabled me to study for a year in London. It also prepared me academically and taught me how to interact with people. All of my experiences at Willamette, including my responsibilities as president of my fraternity, have prepared me for this."

In preparation for his Rotary adventure, Thierren is taking classes in Spanish. "I'm conversational in Spanish now, but my goal is to be fluent or nearly fluent by the time I leave. Having fluency in the language will make my experience that more valuable."

Thierren, who hopes to go study law when he returns, aims for an international career. "It may be law or it may be business, but I know I want a career on the international level."