Washington and Lee University senior Danielle (Dani) Breidung has become the first student at the University to earn a Certificate of International Immersion, which is awarded to students who demonstrate significant commitment to and understanding of global interaction.
Breidung's achievement will be recognized with a notation on her transcript and an indication in the Commencement program.
W&L's faculty adopted the Certificate of International Immersion in 2011 as part of the University's Strategic Initiative for Global Learning, which aims to prepare graduates to be engaged in a global and diverse society. The new award considers the student's overall academic record along with a portfolio created by the student to illustrate his or her international experiences while at W&L.
"We could not be happier to have awarded the first certificate to Dani as she sets a very high bar for future candidates," said Larry Boetsch, director of international education at W&L. "She gave a lively presentation to the committee and submitted a stunning portfolio of her work in order to demonstrate her fulfillment of the requirements."
Breidung, from Waunakee, Wis., is a sociology and anthropology major, with minors in poverty and human capability studies and environmental studies. During her first three years at Washington and Lee, she spent a total of 12 months studying, interning and serving communities abroad. She was in Manaus, Brazil, for much of the time but also traveled to northeastern Brazil for a social science conference, visited Nicaragua during Spring term and taught English in the Dominican Republic during February break with W&L's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) organization.
Breidung arrived at W&L with an interest in international affairs, travel and culture. Already fluent in Spanish, she decided to learn Portuguese. She enriched her college experience by taking such classes as a sociology course on cross-cultural psychology, culture and poverty; a philosophy course on social equality and fair opportunity; a business course on the ethics of globalization and a history course on U.S.-Latin American relations.
In addition, Breidung is a Bonner Scholar and has served over 1,000 hours of community service in the Rockbridge area. The Bonner Scholars Program provides students with the framework to engage in community service, while providing financial support to help make their education more affordable. Her Bonner activities included volunteering for Campus Kitchen at W&L (CKWL) and for ESOL, which facilitates communication between local English and non-English speaking populations.
Breidung initiated the program "Lazos Más Fuertes," supported by CKWL and ESOL, which organizes dinners to bring together Spanish-speaking adults and children with English-speaking individuals in the Rockbridge area and helps coordinate tutoring.
In commenting on her award, Breidung said, "I think the Certificate of International Immersion is a great initiative by Washington and Lee because it rewards students who connect their study abroad experiences with what they do on campus, and celebrates those who choose to take classes that either prepare them for or help them better understand their experiences abroad. Being at W&L has opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to visit places I always dreamed of traveling to. I've been to Brazil five times while I've been here."
Breidung credited the process of creating her portfolio for bringing together memories of her experiences. "It was a really rewarding experience and I would encourage anyone who has been working on a lot of things to try and put them together and see how they all intersect with one another," she said.
Breidung will graduate in December in order to take a position with an entrepreneurial company exporting fruit from Brazil to the United States. She was offered the job as a result of her research and an internship in Brazil.