Women's Leadership Institute expands experiential learning opportunities for students

March 6, 2024 - Emily Jodway

The Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) at Michigan State recently had eight students take advantage of its first-ever round of awards from the WLI Experiential Learning Fund. These students earned funding toward study abroad and research opportunities in 2023. 

The Women’s Leadership Institute Experiential Learning Fund was created with the help of Anita Khushalani, a 1987 graduate of MSU and a member of the WLI board since 2021. This new gift was devised with experiential learning opportunities in mind, specifically study abroad, study away or internship programs that will allow students to deepen their knowledge of the critical issues surrounding women’s leadership. 

“When asked about the meaning and impact of the Women’s Leadership Institute’s (WLI) Experiential Learning Fund, what immediately comes to mind is this is what the WLI does—fills gaps, reacts to pressing issues, leaves the ladder down, ignites young leaders, and pushes for equity for women globally. This is what the WLI does,” Amanda Guinot Talbot, Director of the WLI, commented.

“Seeing the impact of the scholarship fund, created in the spring of 2023, on our students has been truly inspiring. For Anita Khushalani, WLI executive board member and founder of the Experiential Learning Fund, this is what she does. Anita had a vision for what supporting students in this way could mean and a passion to give to those students. For Anita, the WLI executive board, and myself, we are excited about the learning, growth, and transformative experiences the fund helps enable our student leaders and the opportunity to move the mission and vision of the WLI forward. I am profoundly grateful to Anita, who began this great work, and to all those inspired by Anita to give. This work makes a profound difference in the lives of our students.”

"Learning outside of the classroom is a critical component of academic and professional development,” Khushalani said. “Indeed, many of us obtained our first jobs as a consequence of an internship or training outside of the classroom. This scholarship provides support to students engaged in these important experiences."

These students used their awarded funds toward experiential learning opportunities in 2023. Among the group of students, all members of the WLI’s Student Cohort, some traveled as far as India for their studies, while others worked locally to assist in-state and regional programs. One such individual is Jazlyn Whitmore, a psychology major who will begin working toward her Masters of Social Work this fall. Whitmore’s research focused on trans rights, elder care and healthcare for all. Similarly, business and political science major Ella Lynch continued an internship with Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Lynch enjoys gaining more experience in the politcal sector and getting to work with closely women in political leadership positions. 

Two other psychology students are conducting research around women leaders in mental health. Ania Jones worked in Columbus, Ohio with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, focusing on black women leadership in psychology while interning in their Child Development Center. Stephanie Segura-Guerrero traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to learn about different facets of women’s leadership and mental health. 

Overseas in Europe, Adena Norwood, an anthropology major with a minor in international development, spent time this past summer in London with the Social Science Scholars Program conducting research on women’s welfare and women of color in modern British history. In Dublin, Ireland, Kaya Wilske used her background as a history major to examine the effects colonization and capitalism has had on various populations, in her case, women in particular. Wilske’s research sought to identify where women fit within a colonized society, as well as how they have adapted over time and made space for themselves as leaders in their local communities post-colonization. 

Kristina Drabczyk also studied in Europe, immersing herself in international politics in Brussels, Belgium. A James Madison student, her research focuses on the roles women occupy in the political world. A senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, arabic and experience architecture, Amina Darabie spent her summer in Jaipur, India with the study abroad program “Exploring Handicraft and Culture and Rajasthan.” Her research followed local communities of female artisans and their role in the community. Amina’s work will culminate in a documentary film completed this spring. 

To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Institute and the Experiential Learning Fund, click here