A college education is sometimes criticized as not providing a very practical background for someone who wants to solve real-world problems. But junior Danielle Dirks is determined to prove otherwise. As a recipient of an Honors Program Research Fellowship, Dirks will put her LMU education to the test this summer by interning for a nongovernmental organization in Peru.
For four weeks — from June 6–July 7 — Dirks will work with K’anchay Wasi, an organization that assists women and children who are victims of domestic violence. The organization runs a store that sells hand-crafted and knitted goods made by the women. However, the business is going under due to extreme financial losses. K’anchay Wasi is in need of a sound, practical solution, and that is where Dirks, who majored in economics and studio arts, comes in. She will help create a business and marketing plan to increase sales.
“The internship will allow me to combine my enthusiasm for the arts and my passion for economics, and by creating a sustainable program for the women. It will also give me hands-on experience with social entrepreneurial and sustainable development practices,” Dirks said.
Dirks is already preparing by studying the cultural differences between the United States and Peru. Also, she has been learning Spanish and working with an economics professor to support her research.
“Our job as human beings is to know about people and the world around us,” Dirks said. “We, as Americans, can learn from other cultures and integrate that into our culture to improve ourselves, and our country.”
Each year, the University Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects anywhere in the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships, writing or tuition.
“Being a recipient of the fellowship allows me to do this internship and other important research,” Dirks said. “Hopefully, future generations will be effected by what I have learned.”
Dirks plans to pursue a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economic development and a career in international affairs and development. She knows that her experience in Peru will help immensely.
“This is the perfect project for me. I’m excited to apply my education to a real-life situation,” Dirks said. “I expect to gain a lot from the experience and incorporate what I learn into my studies when I return home.”