Meet the Latest Ricci Scholars

Courtesy of Jacob Wasag, Tate Stafford | Loyola University ChicagoThe Ricci Scholars spend a semester each at the Beijing and John Felice Rome centers.

The new Loyola Ricci Scholars are preparing to embark on their year abroad.

The five chosen sophomores will spend the upcoming fall 2017 semester in Rome and the following spring 2018 semester in Beijing.

The Ricci Scholarship — launched in 2007 — is a study abroad awarded to five Loyola students each year.

The scholarship covers round-trip travel, language tutorials and program and research expenses.

Sophomore students apply by submitting proposals for a research project of their choice that compares two aspects of Rome and Beijing.The students spend their junior year abroad, then return to Chicago their senior year to finish their projects.

The Riccis’ also select a mentor to guide them through the project by discussing topics and providing feedback if needed.

The Phoenix spoke with each of the selected Ricci Scholars, who shared their thoughts on the upcoming experience.

Melissa Chiaro, 20

Courtesy of Melissa Chiaro

Major: International studies
Hometown: Griffith, Indiana
Project Title: “A Study on Globalization from East to West: The Hallyu Effect”
Mentor: Dr. Noah Butler

Project Description: “My project is studying the effects of the progression of South Korean pop culture. A lot of it is coming to Europe and Asia, which is fascinating because usually globalization is seen as coming from west to the rest. I want to study that and how it’s affected both continents. It’ll also be interesting to examine the different stages of influence.”

How does it feel to be a Ricci Scholar?
“I’m really excited. I’ve wanted to get this scholarship since I heard about it [as a first-year student] first semester. I’ve never been out of the country, so being able to visit two places is absolutely amazing.”

How did you select your project?
“I personally am a big fan of K-pop [an abbreviation of Korean pop that is a musical genre consisting of electronic, hip hop, pop, rock and R&B], K-drama [Korean TV dramas] and Korean movies. When I get interested in something, I do my own research on it. It’s amazing how South Korea is so big comparatively to the [United States]. The [United States] has been dominating in the history of TV and shows, now there’s a huge wave coming from such a small county.”

Mark Neuhengen, 19

Courtesy of Mark Neuhengen

Majors: History and religious studies
Hometown: Niles, Illinois
Project Title: “A Cross Cultural Comparison of Religious Relics between Italian Roman Catholicism and Chinese Buddhism”
Mentor: Dr. Bret Lewis

Project Description
“Relics are a concept in both Roman Catholicism and Buddhism. I’m going to be looking at the similarities and differences between [those] concepts … and how people interact with the relics. Generally speaking, it could be a relic of a saint — like a tooth — in the Roman Catholic tradition.”

How did you select your project?
“I’m Roman Catholic and relics have always been a fascinating part of my faith life. I was attracted to the idea of seeing different interpretations of that — especially in Italian Catholicism and in Chinese Buddhism, which are very different and similar at the same time. They’re both, in a way, similar because both represent physical remnants of spiritual person. They’re different in theological concept — each focuses on two different religions.”

What do you hope to accomplish with your project?
“I think some part of me really enjoys researching and being able to add my own experience to this corpus of knowledge. In a way, I hope to learn something about myself going to these different religious services, temples and churches. I believe religion is a powerful and meaningful tool that at its center is beautiful. Seeing how it works in so many places is something that will imprint on me and last for years.”

John Schmisek, 20

Courtesy of John Schmisek

Majors: International studies and French
Hometown: Winnetka, Illinois
Project Title: “Across the Universe: A Comparative Study of Underground Independent Music in Rome and Beijing”
Mentor: Dr. Catherine Nichols

Project Description
“Basically, I’m really interested in underground community of musicians. I’m drawing from my own experiences with bands playing in the Chicago area. I’ll be studying the underground music scene in each of these cities.”

How did you select your project?
“I didn’t think that this was something I would be able to merge with my academic life. I was in my anthropology class, reading about the study of [the] underground hip hop scene in Japan. I had a moment where I was like, ‘Oh. This is considered research.’ It planted a seed. I figured out that I could study something I’m really interested in.”

What do you hope to accomplish with your project?
“The nature of the research is very immersive. I will have to hang out with people from respective places. The project is designed to make sure it was something that could not be done in a library in Chicago; it’s something you can only do when you immerse yourself.”

Jacob Sierra, 19

Courtesy of Jacob Sierra

Major: Marketing
Hometown: Hillside, Illinois
Project Title: “A Comparative Analysis of the Religious Significances of Buddhist Statuary in Beijing and Catholic Statuary in Rome”
Mentor: Dr. Tracy Pintchman

Project Description
“I want to focus on the people and how they make art sacred or holy. My research will include interviewing regular people and how they interact with personal [religious] statues at home and in local places of worship.”

How does it feel to be a Ricci Scholar?
“[I was notified] over winter break and remember getting really excited. I had to make sure that everything worked with my four year plan. I’m hopeful for what next year will look like and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I’ve never left the continent, so I’m also a bit nervous. My mom actually pushed me — she was the one who told me that I needed to apply.”

What do you hope to accomplish with your project?
“I’m hoping to learn more about two different faiths that I don’t feel like I know enough about. I was raised Pentecostal and the art is very limited. When I came to Loyola, I thought it was weird to see so much art in religious worship. But you can learn so much from an image … and I grew to appreciate that.”

Jessica Xi, 20

Courtesy of Jessica Xi

Majors: International studies and history
Hometown: Lakeville, Minnesota
Project Title: “Examining the Self-Initiated Expatriate in Italy and China”
Mentor: Dr. David Posner

Project Description
“I’m going to be looking at anglophone [English-speaking] people from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia who moved to Italy and China without having a previously-arranged job, family there … I will be looking at the expatriate [those displaced from their native county] communities and how major global events affect their connection to their adopted and home lands.”

How does it feel to be a Ricci Scholar?
“Well, it’s very exciting for me. I wanted to be a Ricci Scholar before even deciding I wanted to go to Loyola, so I’ve basically started on the path of one of my biggest dreams. It’s also really invigorating to be a part of the cool community of Ricci Scholars who have come before [me] and dived into their individual and unique projects that are all so interesting.”

What do you hope to accomplish with your project?
“I want to dig deeper with the expatriates in Italy and China and see what they have in common, and what separates them. I’m very curious about the major global events and how they affect the expatriates because I’ve learned from personal experience that it seems like you become more of your homeland once you are out of it.”

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