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Alumna Jamie Constantine named 2024 Rotary Global Scholar
image of Jamie Constantine

Jamie Constantine’s interest in sustainable development took root during her years on Emory’s Oxford and Atlanta campuses. Now the combination of two scholarships for graduate study will help the 2022 alumna take her goals global.

Jamie Constantine had yet to consider Emory University as the place to pursue higher education when, as an assistant English teacher in an Ecuadorian indigenous school, she was struck by the significance of community in the healthy growth of both people and societies. 

The observation surfaced during an eight-month assignment after high school that Constantine intended to use as a way to broaden her Spanish skills and figure out a way to pay for college. It became the inspiration for her academic and community pursuits as a first-generation scholar on Emory’s Oxford and Atlanta campuses and as a Fulbright recipient after graduating in 2022 with a degree in political science. 

This spring, Rotary International named Constantine one of its Global Grant Scholars, awarding her $30,000 toward a master’s degree in global development from SOAS University in London. 

She also won Emory’s Charles E. Shepard Scholarship for graduate study from the National Scholarships and Fellowships program in the Pathways Center, which makes participating in the Rotary program possible. 

“Jamie has been building this path, toward a deep grassroots understanding of what is happening on the ground combined with an academic understanding of the policies,” says Kate Grace, director of Emory’s Community Building and Social Change program, where Constantine served as a fellow. “She makes things happen.” 

Growing up in Wisconsin, Constantine developed a passion for languages after a speech delay kept her in speech therapy until she was 10. She studied French and Spanish in high school, and completed seven weeks of intensive Mandarin instruction in China via the U.S. State Department. 

While in Ecuador, language skills and a warm welcome allowed her to participate in the community although she still felt separate from it. She learned the concept of “social place isolation” — the loneliness that comes from a lack of social bonds — while interning with the local health department after returning home.  

“I realized the most important thing to me was feeling connected,” Constantine says. “I think society is at its best when everyone can participate. So my goal has been to understand the barriers that are limiting people from that.”

Building connections at Emory  

The smaller footprint at Oxford, home of the original Emory campus about 30 miles east of Atlanta, allowed Constantine to dive into that goal. She joined Model UN and OxFirst, an organization offering resources and events to support first-generation and limited- and low-income backgrounds. She also worked as an ESL (English as a second language) tutor with local residents and volunteered with Oxford Service Corps.  

Working with the Covington First United Methodist Church food pantry held special significance for Constantine, who realized her family could have benefitted from similar help during the year her family went without income when her father lost his job as a chef.  

“At that point, I realized I was interested in food, working with diverse populations and how social-place isolation affects the most vulnerable, especially migrants,” Constantine says. “It was being placed with the Global Growers network that brought it all together.” 

That placement came from the Community Building and Social Change (CBSC) program on Emory’s Atlanta campus. Constantine saw her political science major as a way to expand institutional structures and always planned to minor in CBSC, which integrates academic study with community engagement. 

She completed the two-semester coursework online during the pandemic. Her 10-week summer project with Global Growers called for her and two other students to help migrants and other new Americans acclimate by growing food for their families and for sale. 

Constantine’s team did a “yeoman’s job” in assembling a food-leadership training program that, among other things, created an extensive training guidebook and formalized opportunities for farmers markets and restaurant partnerships, says Michael Rich, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science who founded and leads the CBSC program. 

Constantine continued that research in Rich’s evidence-based policymaking course during fall 2021. As part of that class, she presented some of her work in a policy brief on access to healthy food and ending food deserts to a Georgia State Senate legislative study committee. 

“Jamie has done a remarkable job of combining her service interest and passion with her work in the classroom,” Rich says. “Each evolution of her development was an advancement of her skills. Importantly, she also has an enduring leadership perspective to become a content expert so she can share that knowledge and empower people.” 

That intentional study continued with the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which Constantine sought in Mexico for new insights into community and migration. Her assignment at the high school serving agriculture-focused Autonomous University of Chapingo also gave her the opportunity to learn about crops and growing practices such as hydroponics. 

Following her Fulbright year, Constantine brought her skills and knowledge to an organic farm in Wisconsin, overseeing training and food safety while also helping with visas for migrant workers. 

She says the practical experience gained in both those settings will help her ask more informed questions during her master’s study. 

Her goal is to pursue a career working on sustainable development projects while continuing her on-the-ground efforts. She learned about the Rotary grant award just days before traveling abroad to live and work on an organic farm serving an asylum refugee camp in Greece. 

She was able to fly to the site using a travel voucher from Shaheen Pirani, who graduated with Constantine from both Oxford and Emory and now works as a senior data analyst for Delta Airlines.  

Those friendships will endure, as will Constantine’s praise for Emory helping her find her path. 

“Emory provided the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and get into my growth zone,” Constantine says. “I got the experiences to synthesize and relate to my interests. It’s the liberal arts and emphasis on different ways of thinking that let me be successful.”

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