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Michael Thompson ’09 Wins Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship

Michael Thompson ’09, from La Jolla, Calif., and a senior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., has recently been awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship which will continue his education for an academic year in one of five cities.

He won’t be told until mid-December 2008 whether he’ll be studying in Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Toluca, Mexico; or Istanbul, Turkey. Thompson was asked as part of his scholarship application where he would like to study and why.

His scholarship application had to be in the language of the school he would be attending–Portuguese for Rio de Janiero, Spanish for Santiago, Lima and Toluca and English for Istanbul. If the Rotary program sends him to Turkey he would need to learn Turkish although the school he would be attending there is taught in English. And he already knows Portuguese and Spanish.

The Rotary Ambassadorial Program aims to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries and geographical areas. While abroad, scholars serve as goodwill ambassadors to the host country and give presentations about their homelands to Rotary clubs and other groups. Upon returning home, scholars share with Rotarians and others the experiences that led to a greater understanding of their host country.

“I am very pleased Mike won the Rotary Scholarship,” said Christopher Connors, associate professor of geology. “During study abroad programs at Washington and Lee, Mike has developed a passion for travel and learning about new cultures, particularly Brazilian culture. The sciences are no less in need of cultural understanding than any other discipline, and in many ways more so. Most of the challenges we face in the geosciences cross borders and cultures and are global in nature.”

Thompson, a geology major with a concentration in environmental studies, said the places he would like to study next year are “geologically interesting. There is a fault line running from South America up through the Rockies in the U.S. Turkey is also a heavily faulted area.”

Connors also said, “The Rotary Scholarship will allow him to strengthen his understanding of another culture while preparing for graduate study and a career in the geosciences. He is the type of personable, motivated, and intelligent student the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship seeks to nurture with their program.”

Currently at W&L, Thompson serves on the Student Judicial Council and is a third-year member of the rugby club, a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and a member of the Cycling Team.

When asked what he planned on doing after his scholarship year is over Thompson said that “it’s still a question mark. I might want to be a geologist for a couple of years, or an environmental consultant. I might be interested in starting up an environmental energy company. I can’t say for sure right now.”