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New Emory scholarship recognizes rising student leader

By Michelle Hiskey | Development Communications | Jan. 13, 2014

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Peter Witzig 16C

Photo by Emory Photo/Video

As Emory's student government vice president, Brian Fuller (2013, Emory Colllege) successfully lobbied for a scholarship for students who led positive change at Emory. He admired and wanted to help students who stepped up for a cause they believed in, like his next-door neighbor Peter Witzig (2016, Emory College), a freshman who sought to increase students' awareness of gender inequalities.

When Witzig received the first Campus Life Student Leadership Scholarship, Fuller's work was rewarded. The funding recognizes the difference student leaders can make at Emory and helps them push forward.

"I've seen a lot of student leaders who are contributing positively at Emory and struggling financially; some even had to leave college," said Fuller, whose education at Emory was made possible through scholarship funding. "If your parents aren't extremely wealthy and their yearly income is not low enough to qualify for a lot of financial aid, you will struggle financially. I wanted to create a scholarship to help those students."
 
The leader next door

Witzig is from Duluth, Minn., and majors in English and linguistics. He got involved with the campus literary magazine and university chorus. When he stopped by the Volunteer Emory informational meeting, the weekly trip to Men Stopping Violence (MSV) in Decatur intrigued him.

According to its website, Men Stopping Violence is a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent violence against women and girls. The Emory-MSV partnership, through the Center for Women at Emory, offers "Male Intimate Partner Violence Against Women," the first college course in the country of its kind.

At the Men Stopping Violence office, "I wasn't just asked to observe, but to participate in their classes and learn, for instance, tactics and choices for avoiding violence," Witzig said. "It's a chance for men to be vulnerable about why men use physical and other types of violence. It's not about buzzwords but about essential human dignity. We all receive messages about how to think about sexuality through media, religion, and other sources that prevent us from recognizing the dignity of all humans."

Witzig started to push for greater awareness of sexual assault and male privilege, especially in the Greek system that he is part of as a fraternity member. He helped organize the Greek Initiative expected to launch in early 2014. The series of workshops will help fraternities, sororities, and the Emory campus become more aware of sexual bias and violence.
 
Witzig turned to Fuller for advice on how to work with administrators who would help support these efforts.

"The rape culture is not an Emory thing but a college thing and a world thing," Fuller said. "It is so important Peter wanted to carry that message within the fraternity and Greek world, where a lot of gender stereotypes are perpetuated so strongly. Even if people are not violent or directly promoting gender inequalities, how are they enabling others — even friends — to do that?"

Making a difference

Fuller's initiative for leadership funding gained momentum quickly. Gifts to the Campus Life Fund for Excellence established the scholarship.

The Division of Campus Life agreed to fund the scholarship for three years and help the recipient map the best route through administrative channels to turn ideas into action.

"Students with financial need often must choose between serving in leadership positions and working to afford college," said Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life. "Through the generous support of donors, the Student Leadership Scholarship makes the Emory experience more affordable for a student leader. A recipient such as Peter can now focus on honing his leadership skills and contributing to our community."

The scholarship fit into Campus Life's mission to help students develop skills necessary for lifelong success and positive transformation in the world. Other student-driven initiatives in 2012-2013 included subsidies for graduate student childcare, Dean for a Day program, and a program to donate the cash value of meal points to a nonprofit.

The $1,000 scholarship makes a difference to Witzig, whose work-study job helps him afford an Emory education.
"It takes a lot of time to do something like Men Stopping Violence, and it also takes a lot of time to meet my financial obligations at school. This scholarship helps me tip the balance toward being involved as a leader," Witzig said. "The more the scholarship grows as people invest in it, the larger the outcomes by student leaders."

Fuller, who is working with a nonprofit in Philadelphia that helps children who live in public housing, is helping Emory raise $50,000 to endow the scholarship. "Emory is a pretty open community that is willing to get behind a movement," he said. "What Peter is doing is not a quick fix."

Apply for the Campus Life Student Leadership Scholarship.

The Campus Life Student Leadership Scholarship is made possible through gifts to the Campus Life Fund for Excellence. Support the fund.