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Lucy Ortiz ’15 Awarded Luce Scholarship The scholarship provides young scholars with an immersive experience in Asia through which they can learn to "be comfortable being uncomfortable." 

LMO-Headshot-scaled Lucy Ortiz '15 Awarded Luce ScholarshipLouisa Ortiz ’15

Louisa (Lucy) Ortiz ’15 has won a Luce Scholarship, a nationally competitive fellowship that offers early-career leaders immersive professional experiences in Asia. The Henry Luce Foundation announced Feb. 9 that Ortiz was one of 18 scholars chosen to participate in the 2023-2024 cohort. She is Washington and Lee University’s seventh Luce Scholar.

“After seven years teaching elementary school, I’m looking forward to a new experience where I have the opportunity to explore a new country, spend time learning a language and grow as an educator through a personal, professional placement,” said Ortiz.

After a one-year hiatus and a redesigned admissions process, the Luce Scholars Program, according to their website, “saw a record number of applications: more than double than in any previous year, with 32 percent of applicants coming from institutions new to the program.” The 18 Luce Scholars were selected from a pool of 34 finalists.

Ortiz grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, a small island community in the Tongass National Rainforest. At W&L, she majored in economics and minored in educational policy. Ortiz said that W&L exposed her to new worldviews.

“A class that stands out in my memory was a religion course titled Perspectives on Death and Dying with professor emeritus Richard Marks,” she said. “It opened my eyes to cross-cultural understanding and looking at different topics from a global viewpoint.”

After graduation, Ortiz worked at an elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia. Later, she moved to Unalaska, Alaska, where she taught fourth grade, joined the library board, volunteered as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician, and earned her certification to teach food preservation. In 2021, she moved back home and became a third-generation Ketchikan educator. Currently, she serves as the response to intervention coordinator and a reading teacher at Houghtaling Elementary, the same school she attended as a child.

Haley Sigler, director of Education Studies and associate professor, taught and mentored Ortiz during her time at W&L.

“I served as Lucy’s professor in my Foundations of Education course, a literacy methods course, a methods course for language arts and social studies, and as her university supervisor and mentor during her student teaching experience,” said Sigler. “She is intelligent, skilled, reflective, dependable and motivated. I believe the reason Lucy has found so much success during her teaching experience is due to her reflective nature. She works well with a team, is very open to feedback and is constantly working to improve her profession further.”

Outside of her own classroom, Ortiz is a cross-country coach, an active member of her union and a library advisory board member. She also enjoys fiber arts such as Shibori dyeing, knitting and Chilkat thigh spinning.

Orientation for Ortiz and her fellow Luce Scholars begins virtually in June and continues in Singapore on June 26. Ortiz will spend July and August in intensive language training before starting her 10-month professional placement.

“I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity,” said Ortiz. “The Luce Scholars Program’s focus on cultural learning, immersion and relationship building aligns with my values and goals as an educator. This opportunity stood out to me as a way to strengthen my teaching and at the same time grow as an individual through new experiences and language learning.”

The Henry Luce Foundation started the Luce Scholars Program in 1974. The nationally competitive program aims to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society. It stands out from other such exchanges in that it is intended for young leaders who have had limited experience in Asia and who might not otherwise have an opportunity in the course of their careers to spend time there.

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