Liberal Arts students look forward to Perreault Fellowship experience

Rebecca Marcinko
April 18, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Soon after coming to Penn State to pursue an engineering degree, Jessica Raskauskas realized she wanted to focus her interests on combating domestic and sexual violence. Today, Raskauskas, a junior in criminology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, plans to use that drive to help others throughout the world.

Raskauskas is one of several College of the Liberal students currently participating in Penn State’s Perreault Fellows Program, a two-year global leadership and internship program that prepares students from multiple disciplines for personal and professional excellence through learning in cross-cultural leadership, ethics, service, personal-mentoring, and an internship abroad related to health and the betterment of the human condition.

In addition to Raskauskas, the other students hoping to travel abroad this summer include Nick Banerjee, junior in psychology and labor and human resources; Sarah Kwon, junior in psychology; and Jordin Mertz, junior in political science.

With travel-abroad restrictions still in place as the result of the pandemic, however, those study abroad experiences may need to occur virtually rather than in-person. Students will need to complete a review process through the International Restricted Travel Committee, which is managed by the Global Safety Office, before being permitted to travel.

Whether virtual or in-person, however, the impact of the experience will still have a profound impact on students personally and professionally, said Briana Casey, academic services manager for Penn State Education Abroad Programs.

“Interns still develop deep and meaningful relationships with their colleagues and grow their professional community,” Casey said. “They can apply the knowledge they gained in classes, expend their skills and learn and understand work cultures that can be different than what they are used to in the [United States].”

Perreault Fellows Program Coordinator Renata Horvatek added that virtual work will continue even after the pandemic, so fellows will have an opportunity to immerse themselves in what will become a frequently occurring means of work should their internships be virtual.

“Virtual engagements are still phenomenal channels for exchanges of ideas, building partnerships, and friendships on individual and macro levels,” Horvatek said.

Banerjee, a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, said he has been in contact with a professor at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland about assisting her with her human behavior research. Banerjee wants to continue studying psychology after graduation, so he said this opportunity fits well with his future plans.

“I think there's a big emphasis [in a liberal arts education] on understanding different points of view and different people in different cultures,” Banerjee said. “I think that's really important, and something I chose this program for to help me develop.”

Kwon, who plans to pursue a career helping children and adolescents with mental illness or mental disorders after graduation, hopes the Perreault Fellowship will allow her to experience “global and culture diversity” while completing work she is passionate about. "This opportunity is such a great honor,” Kwon said. “It’s so helpful to use this opportunity to grow my skills and passions.”

Kwon is currently in contact with professors in South Korea and Germany. Wherever the internship takes her, she hopes it involves working in a psychiatric hospital studying mood and anxiety disorders.

Mertz said his interest in politics grew as the result of growing up in low-income neighborhood, which gave him the “tendency to want to try to fix [things] in a bigger kind of sense.” While he hopes to someday work in government — be it domestically or abroad — Mertz hopes the fellowship will help bring his career plans more into focus.

“I just feel like [the fellowship] is something that can kind of set me apart from others and give me a really great experience,” Mertz said.

Mertz is currently planning to complete the CzechMates internship program in the Czech Republic. “I think that having that cultural awareness that a lot of liberal arts classes have taught me — whether it's a history class or a philosophy class — and having an understanding of the culture of the Czech Republic, and international relations and communication more generally, will be really beneficial,” he said.

Raskauskas is currently in contact with professors in Ireland, Australia and England. Regardless of where she ends up this summer, she said she wants to conduct research on domestic and sexual violence to help jumpstart her post-graduation career.

“I know that I'm smart enough to do this research,” Raskauskas said. “I also know that I'm able to do it, and that I have enough of the background to do it.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 19, 2021