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Newest Rotary Scholars Are at Home in the World

by Melissa Payton

Robert Williams and Tiffani Brown are in good company as Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars. Alumni of the program include journalist Bill Moyers and the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Paul Volcker.

Photos by Inga Kiderra, Casey Crafton

This spring, six USC undergraduates have won prestigious national and international fellowships for graduate studies. Previous USC Chronicles have profiled winners of Marshall, Luce, Truman and National Security Education Pro gram scholarships. In this issue, Chronicle features the two winners of Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships, recent graduates Tiffani Brown and Robert Williams.

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar ships seek to further international understanding and world peace by sponsoring student “ambassadors” to study in another country. Alumni of the program include journalist Bill Moyers and the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Paul Volcker.

Brown and Williams won one-year scholarships that they will use for study in England and New Zealand, respectively.

For more information on fellowships, contact Donna Norris, leadership and academic recognition programs director, at (213) 740-9116.

Tiffani Brown

Spending six months in Brazil proved to be a life-changing experience for Tiffani Brown, who has just graduated from USC with a major in economics and a minor in international relations.

“It was my first overseas experience, and it was an entirely different world,” she said about her time at the Universidade de Sao Paulo in spring 1999. “You learn that people who look like you are living a totally different experience.”

The London School of Economics, where Brown will start a master’s degree in economic history this fall, will offer another lesson in contrasts. But both experiences surely reflect Brown’s interest in the world and her wide-ranging intellect – qualities that led her to leave her North Carolina home at age 15 to attend a college prep boarding school in Massachusetts.

“I grew up in a rural area near Chapel Hill and I went to a private school, but that didn’t challenge me academically,” she said. Brown was accepted by A Better Chance Scholars Program, which provides financial aid to send gifted minority students to top college preparatory schools. She attended Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Mass.

Recruited by USC, Brown enrolled in 1996 as an international relations major. After taking some required economics courses, she found herself drawn to international development and changed majors to economics.

Brown soon won an Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship, which seeks to diversify the ranks of scholars interested in careers in public policy and international service. The fellowship leads to a master’s degree, and requires that undergraduates attend summer institutes in international public policy their sophomore through senior years.

Brown spent the summer after her sophomore year at Clark Atlanta University taking courses in economics, international relations, business and politics. Then came the six months in Brazil – an intensive introduction to the Portuguese language and the culture, politics, music and dance of Brazil. In Sao Paulo, she conducted research on the possibilities of social mobility for Brazil’s black population.

Last summer Brown undertook her second international public policy institute, at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she learned policy analysis, economic quantitative methods and oral and written communications.

This summer, before heading off to London, she’ll switch gears and complete an internship in mergers and acquisitions with the investment banking firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in New York City.

“The past few summers, I’ve been dealing with concepts and theories – I haven’t had an opportunity to participate in hands-on training. This will be my first opportunity to do a real-world internship, and it will help me decide what I want to do later,” she said.

When she returns from London, she’ll complete the final piece of her IIPP Fellowship: a master’s degree at one of the member schools of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs. At this point, she’s leaning toward a master’s in trade and finance at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

After that? Perhaps a Ph.D. or returning to the private sector for work at a multinational corporation.

While at USC, Brown found time to teach arts and crafts through USC’s Afterschool Enrichment Program at the 32nd Street/USC Magnet School, serve as an active member of the Black Student Union, and participate in Toastmasters Inter national.

Her athletic interests include weight lifting, skiing, soccer, jogging, sailing, climbing, swimming, bicycling and capoeira, a martial art with dance-like movements that she learned – where else? – in Brazil.

Robert Williams

Williams, whose undergraduate major was international relations, embodies internationalism. He is fluent in Canadian French as well as international, or standard, French – which he polished during a part-time job at the French consulate in Los Angeles. He studied German in high school, knows some Serbo-Croatian, Latvian, Czech and Russian, and is deeply interested in the issues surrounding the Bosnian conflict.

Yet he’ll be spending his year abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where the natives do speak English – even if they manage to insert several extra vowels into the word “no.”

In Auckland, Williams will be enrolled in a joint master’s program in political science and international law. When he’s finished, he wants to complete a Ph.D. in international development – in either New Zealand or the United States – and then work in humanitarian peacekeeping for the United Nations.

A competitive swimmer who swam for USC in 1998, Williams became a fan of New Zealand’s diversity, dramatic scenery and cosmopolitan people after several visits there as a member of the Canadian National Junior Swim Team in 1997-1998. (Although he was raised in Newport Beach, Williams has dual citizenship.)

A night job as a flight planner with Air New Zealand at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999 led to frequent business trips to Auckland, where he observed some courses at the university there.

“The international relations courses were not all focused on New Zealand’s view of the world, the way universities here would offer the United States’ view of the world. I sat in on one course there on the U.S.’ view of New Zealand,” he said.

In Auckland, Williams will swim for New Zealand’s national swim club and play volleyball for the university.

Williams first studied French at Carden Hall, a private elementary school in Newport Beach where his mother is a teacher. He learned the difference between his French Canadian dialect and standard French in a job during the 1998-99 school year as translator and press representative at the French consulate in Los Angeles.

Williams spent his high school junior and senior years studying at UC Irvine under its Resident Honors Program. Entering USC as a junior in 1998, he focused at first on humanities and languages, but became interested in the Bosnian conflict, which was raging then.

“There was so much conflicting information about Bosnia,” Williams said. “You’d read the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek, for example, and they would disagree. We’d do a lot of case studies in class and find something that would further contradict other information. I researched questions like why the United States went in [to Bosnia] so late.”

Williams will take classes at UCLA this summer and fall to fulfill the two remaining prerequisites for his Auckland program. Then he’ll travel to New Zealand for the January 2001 summer session (seasons are reversed there) and regular sessions from March to November.

Newest Rotary Scholars Are at Home in the World

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