When Caitlin Corrigan-Orosco ’19 left her Long Island, N.Y., home for Earlham, she was determined to do more than earn a degree. Just two years into earning her Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham, she is gaining real-world experience in international law, diplomacy, and refugee studies while putting her knowledge into action.
Most recently she became one of just 10 undergraduates out of 400 applicants selected to participate in the Oxbridge Future Leaders Program 2017 at Oxford University, an experience that advanced both her academic interests and future prospects.
“Studying at Oxford was truly spectacular and further enriched my education and supported my goal to study international affairs in graduate school,” she says.
Corrigan-Orosco’s ambition can be attributed to the many challenges she has faced in her lifetime. As a first-generation student supported by a single mother, Corrigan-Orosco also has the experience of persevering through a series of treatments to cure three tick-borne illnesses at the age of 16. She also has supported her mother through her own diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor.
“Having a near-death experience and watching my mother suffer has really made me think about how precious life is,” Corrigan-Orosco says. “I want to live and thrive. I want to use my mind to its fullest potential and not take one minute for granted.”
As an Earlham student, she has taken that philosophy to heart. Corrigan-Orosco began these efforts when she applied to participate in Earlham’s Tibetan Studies program, a semester-long off-campus program headquartered in Dharamsala, India, the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. But her interest in the Tibetan cause actually began when she traveled to Taiwan in her freshman year as part of a May Term that focused on the globalization of China.
Corrigan-Orosco’s experience at Earlham is a prime example of what the College hopes students experience through a major initiative called EPIC and the EPIC Advantage. EPIC helps students combine disparate interests and opportunities into a coherent and cohesive plan that helps them to make the most of their education, including the offer of a funded internship or research experience for all interested students before graduation.
“I became especially invested in learning about the systems in which our world is governed by, and the forms of oppression in which keep these systems in place,” Corrigan-Orosco says. “Furthermore, I wanted to learn more about my role in the world and how I can be a part of a global movement in promoting human rights, especially the rights of refugees.”
During her semester in Dharamsala, she took classes at Sarah College and The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. She interned for the Tibetan government-in-exile with The Tibetan Legal Association, an experience that included completing a case study on political prisoners who died while incarcerated in Tibet.
That following summer, in the weeks before participating in Oxbridge Future Leaders program, she traveled to Barcelona and worked with Casa del Tibet, a non-profit established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to promote support and solidarity for Tibetans living in Spain. Working alongside her on the research was Earlham Professor of English Kari Kalvi, also one of the co-leaders of the Tibetan Studies program.
“My research in Barcelona articulated the struggle of preserving Tibetan culture while being displaced in Spain,” Corrigan-Orosco says. “I explored how the preservation of Tibetan culture is deeply affected by assimilating to Spanish and Catalan culture. Kari has been incredible to work with.”
So has the support from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, for which she is a scholarship recipient, Corrigan-Orosco says. Through this program, she has access to skill-building courses and tutoring, and individualized assistance through the graduate school application process.
Now as she begins her third academic year, Corrigan-Orosco’s passion for improving the lives of refugees is evolving into other geographic areas. This fall, she will attend the Clinton Global Initiative University’s annual conference in Boston along with two of her colleagues. At the conference, they will seek funding to launch a social venture establishing a shelter in Oaxaca, Mexico for survivors of human trafficking.
“My desire to take an active role in my education and to challenge myself propels me to enthusiastically open my eyes to new insights and create something beautifully meaningful,” she says. “With support from my advisors, mentors, most admired professors, and Earlham entirely, I have built enough courage to look impossible in the eye and smile with determination and perseverance.”