For The Transcript
Surprised with a research trip to Europe that she never dreamed could be hers, Chelsea Huddleston of Norman describes her selection as a Governor's International Scholar a "rare opportunity."
"I was incredibly excited to be given such an amazing opportunity," Huddleston said Friday before she left the country on Saturday. "I'll be studying at Swansea University in Wales as part of a new program in Oklahoma. To be recognized as a member of such a prestigious group is a special honor."
Huddleston graduated in the spring from USAO, where she majored in psychology. This fall, she will serve as a research intern with the Conservative Party in Wales, one of five parties represented in the national assembly. She will assist with developing public policy and legislation for Wales.
Huddleston was named with four other Oklahoma students to the Brad Henry International Scholar Program for "excellent academic talent, character and leadership," the governor's office said Friday.
She is "passionate about making a better world," says her major professor, Dr. Tina Winn, associate professor of psychology at USAO.
"Chelsea was the first person in my mind when the president asked for a nomination," said Winn, who chairs the division of business and social science. "She is one of our top psychology students. She has served in numerous leadership roles on campus, successfully applying to charter a chapter of the Sierra Coalition at USAO, and participating on a research team led by Dr. Christopher Walker, assistant professor of psychology, that presented its study at the American Psychological Association annual convention.
"In addition to her impressive success as a student, Chelsea is passionate about making a better world," Winn said. "She had been accepted into the Peace Corps but encountered difficulties that were going to result in putting that dream on hold. She began considering a graduate degree in public administration as she worked toward her dream of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. The beauty of this program is that Chelsea can gain valuable public administration experience and exposure to a foreign culture, while completing hours toward a political science minor at USAO, all of which will be great assets for her as she applies to graduate programs and prepares for a life of public service."
Other Oklahoma students participating in the research are Kyle Bolton of Cameron University in Lawton, Philip Kennedy of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Desiree Mitchell of Rogers State University in Claremore, and Rachel Whitaker of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
These are the first five chosen for the international study program, which was established by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education in June. The program provides a $10,000 stipend each for these students to participate in semester-long study or research programs affiliated with Swansea University. Academic credit for these programs will be awarded by Oklahoma universities.
"I think we can all be extremely proud of this group of students," said Gov. Henry. "Through this program they will learn the importance of succeeding in a global economy. I have no doubt they will represent our state very well during their time in Wales."
Getting this assignment is a dream come true, Huddleston said.
"Learning about other cultures and teaching others about my way of life has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember," she said. "This opportunity will provide me with a greater understanding of what is important to other countries and how they go about making policies that are important to them."
Huddleston describes her experience at USAO as ideal preparation.
"Knowing that USAO has equipped me with the tools I need to make a real difference in the world is the greatest reward I could ever ask for," she said. "I now feel like I can go out into the world as a confident and informed citizen who is capable of making good choices that impact the lives of myself and others. Believing that I can make a difference is what keeps me going."
"For the first two weeks of my trip I'll be staying in London for orientation," Huddleston explained. "I'll be staying in housing provided by the Foundation for International Education in the Kensington borough. After orientation, I'll transfer to Cardiff, Wales and live in an apartment very close to where I'll be working. I'll be learning how another country develops and implements public policies and about the issues that are important to them."
Study abroad was a dream but slightly out of reach, Huddleston said.
"I come for a single-parent household where money could get tight at times. I've never had any international travel experience, mainly because my family couldn't afford it. Knowing that USAO has given me the opportunity to fulfill a life dream since I was young is indescribable. There is absolutely no way I could have ever embarked on such an incredible journey without the help of USAO. It's amazing to see my dreams take shape and become a reality because of the great faculty, staff, and administration at USAO."