Claire Elverum ('16)


'I just feel like opportunities are so endless here, and there are so many things going on here that it’s impossible not to find your spot.'

Talk about the Honors College’s Hillcrest Scholarships.

I received the Global Studies Hillcrest Scholarship, but there are others for entrepreneurship, the arts, science and business, too. Mine is $5,000. The program is designed so that scholarship recipients can use their experiences and findings to support their Honors thesis.

So you went overseas for your project?

I proposed an environmental project with kids at a primary school in Tanzania. Dr. Besi B. Muhonja, who is from Kenya, helped me with everything. I set up a website for these kids with help from JMU’s Center for Institutional Technology. I collected a bunch of digital cameras from friends when I went over there. The school is supposed to be a more environmentally focused school. They have solar panels and things like that, and they do so many other environmentally friendly things that they don’t realize. They grow their own food that they then cook with, so the kids see the whole process full circle.

Did you work directly with Tanzanian youth?

Yes. I worked directly with the children in Tanzania. What I did with the kids was show them websites, because they have computers, and show them about online learning. I’d walk around and take pictures of what they’re doing with the environment and post them online so they could learn about them. In English they would explain what the picture is. We would form sentences and work with sentence structure. We would always end with a Swahili proverb, so that I could learn because I’m there to learn from them too. The proverbs in Swahili are very related to the earth and environment, but they also apply them to life.

Claire Elverum at the Honors Symposium
Claire Elverum presents her case study with Tanzanian youth at the Honors Symposium

What’s next for you?

What I want to do in graduate school is study foreign aid and how it is distributed, and if it’s being distributed correctly. I want to work for non-profits and maybe live in Africa for some time. It is exciting knowing that there are all these possibilities and that so many different things can happen. We’re all so lucky to go here to JMU because we have those opportunities. Opportunities are literally handed to you here, whereas in other places they’re just not there. I feel like I have all these opportunities I need to take advantage of. You can’t let those pass by. Anything I see I just say, “I have to do that.” I couldn’t be happier with JMU.

Claire Elverum studies with friends 

Have you had a favorite class?

My Swahili class has been incredible. There were four of us who took six semesters with the same professor. We all moved on to the next class together, and it became like a sisterhood. It’s really cool to be bonded with a language and culture.

Was this what you thought college would be?

No. I thought college was going to be sitting in a classroom listening to lectures, and you go home, write papers, then come back to class the next day and do it all again. JMU has definitely blown all those expectations out of the water. I am very thankful for everything here. Everything—even the hard things—has been awesome.

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Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, February 1, 2021

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