Kate Thirolf

Kate Thirolf

I am currently a PhD student at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) at the University of Michigan School of Education. This summer, thanks to the Raoul Wallenberg International Travel Award and the Can Tho Youth Empowerment Project (CTYEP) in Vietnam, I am directing a youth leadership camp that I am calling the Raoul Wallenberg Summer Youth Empowerment Program.

CTYEP currently provides tutoring to children at orphanages in Can Tho (a city 90 miles southwest of Ho Chi Minh City).

The Raoul Wallenberg Summer Youth Empowerment Program I have developed will enable the CTYEP to build upon its strengths and serve these children in new and special ways. Following a summer camp format, the program will focus on three main themes: learning, leading and having fun!

Each day and all day, the children (aged 8 to 15) will participate in a variety of program activities. For example, they will take English and computer lessons; engage in community service, team building and leadership development activities; and take part in creative arts and crafts and athletics, such as playing basketball, badminton or da cau (the national sport in Vietnam).

To help me with the design and delivery of this program, I am working with a few fantastic Vietnamese college students. One of my research interests is developing civic engagement in society through higher education, and I am excited and hopeful that the students with whom I work will grow their own appreciation for serving others and will develop into strong and compassionate community leaders.

Another research interest of mine is international higher education. I am excited to be learning more about the higher education system in Vietnam by talking with faculty, students, and administrators at colleges in the area where I am working and living. One of my goals this summer is to identify future research opportunities so that I might have the chance to return to this amazing area of the world and conduct formal research on higher education institutions here.

As a result of this summer award experience, I hope to build strong connections with friends and colleagues in Vietnam, make a difference in the lives of the children served by the Raoul Wallenberg Summer Youth Empowerment Program, and make strides in my professional career as an education researcher. I can’t thank the Wallenberg Endowment enough for this amazing opportunity!