ITHACA, N.Y. -- Karin Klapper couldn't be happier. The Cornell University senior has just learned that she will spend a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a Raoul Wallenberg Scholar.
Klapper, a communication major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was one of 10 American and two Israelis awarded the prestigious scholarship for the 1996-97 academic year. The scholarship is awarded to individuals, most of them graduating seniors, who have demonstrated leadership potential and provides them with full tuition and related costs for a year of study in the Hebrew University Visiting Graduate Program. The scholarship is named for Raoul Wallenberg, the Christian Swedish diplomat who risked his life to rescue Jews during World War II.
"My grandparents had to leave Germany, and members of my extended family died during the Holocaust," Klapper said. "So to win an award named for a man who risked his life to save Jews is an incredible honor."
Klapper has honed her leadership skills on many fronts, most prominently as a student-elected trustee on the Cornell University Board of Trustees. In this two-year position she has worked on several committees -- including Academic Affairs and Campus Life, Land Grant and Statutory College Affairs, and Buildings and Properties -- and conducted a comprehensive housing survey of the freshman class to help trustees better understand freshman housing needs and concerns.
She also helped organize the university's first town meeting with President Hunter Rawlings and coordinated an open house as an ambassador of the agriculture college.
After attending an orientation session in New York City, she will depart for Israel on July 30, first to attend the Hebrew University's seven-week summer ulpan (an intensive Hebrew language course) and then to participate in the academic program, which will include seminars in democracy and leadership and in Israeli society.
She also will participate in a group project with other Wallenberg Scholars. In the past, such projects have included organizing a multiethnic street fair in Jaffa, sponsoring a human rights symposium in Budapest and designing and publishing an English-language newspaper for Jewish and Arab Israelis. One of the Wallenberg Scholars currently wrapping up that last project is Jared Genser, Cornell Class of 1995.
Klapper doesn't know what direction her career will take, but, she said, "I'd like to think that politics is an option. It took me three years of active service in campus governance to realize that I enjoyed politics and public service, and that the public arena is the element in which I move most comfortably.
"I have found being able to fight a cause to the very end is very rewarding," she added.
Fellow future leaders take note.