Genevieve (Gennie) Gebhart, a senior Honors student majoring in international studies and economics, was recently selected as a 2013-14 Luce Scholar. A graduate of Mercer Island High School, Gebhart is one of 18 students nationwide to receive this scholarship this year.
The University of Washington is one of two Pac-12 institutions with a Luce Scholar this year.
The Luce Scholars Program is a major national scholarship awarded to fewer than 20 students each year. More than 160 candidates were nominated by 75 colleges and universities this year. The program is designed to raise awareness of Asia among young American leaders and funds a stipend, language training, and places scholars in professional worksites in Asia. A unique element of the Luce Scholars Program is that the foundation seeks students with little to no experience in and of Asia. Students who have had broad experience in Asia or who are majoring in Asian studies, for example, are ineligible for the scholarship.
Though she isn’t new to international travel (and was in Rome when she learned about her selection), Gebhart wrote by email that “Asia is the area of the world about which I know the least. I hope to gain some insight into Asia in general and my country of placement in particular, and [I] feel lucky to be able to do it with the support of the Luce Foundation’s experience, expertise, and infrastructure.”
As an undergraduate, Gebhart’s accomplishments extend well beyond the classroom and include research projects and leadership accomplishments. She has been on the Dean’s list every quarter since entering the UW in 2009; earned a Mary Gates Research Scholarship to research eating disorders, family dynamics and film in southern Italy; received Mary Gates Leadership Scholarships for her work developing the women’s program of the Husky Cycling Club and then serving as the club’s president; was the youngest-ever recipient of the UW Libraries Research Award for Undergraduates; and was selected for several additional scholarships. As if that weren’t enough, Gebhart is also a vocalist on the Grammy-nominated recording of “The Shoe Bird” with the Seattle Symphony.
Gebhart’s interests have led her on a multidisciplinary path culminating in a plan to pursue international librarianship and address issues of information access. She wrote, “My multidisciplinary education has been one big string of surprises. I never could have predicted that I would be involved in economics, or film studies, or library sciences—and, I never could have predicted that I would be doing those things all at once! My education at UW has made me more open to different fields and ways of doing things, and it’s made me more perceptive of unexpected connections among all those fields. For something like information sciences, this is invaluable—what librarians do is so multidisciplinary and requires so much intellectual flexibility.
“Information access takes a different shape in every nation and every community,” writes Gebhart, “but in the end it comes down to a balance between literacy, distribution, and policy. I see my role as figuring out how to optimize these three elements, something that I think is impossible without public engagement and advocacy at every level. So, I think I can make the greatest contribution in clarifying and communicating the urgency of information issues to non-academic and non-professional audiences. We’ve got these buzz words like ‘open access,’ ‘information justice,’ and ‘information commons’ floating around, but the connections between them are new, counterintuitive, and not yet well understood.”
Gebhart’s interest in libraries was inspired in part and wholly supported by her work in UW’s library system. “It’s the people I get to work with that have really role-modeled for me the many ways in which a librarian can be a force for the greater good,” she notes.
After her term as a Luce Scholar, Gebhart is considering graduate school but also wants to be open to opportunities that may present themselves while in Asia. Ultimately, though, “I see myself following a path that sticks to what I think is at the heart of librarianship, regardless of how technology and resources change. It’s about how about how people express, record, and narrate their experiences, and how available information can shape communities and the people in them. I hope to look back one day and be able to say that everything I’ve done has been in service to those greater ideas, to using information for public good.”
In addition to her academic pursuits, Gebhart enjoys creative writing, swimming, hiking, and is studying Italian, French, and Latin.
Learn more about undergraduate opportunities to earn national scholarships.
Learn more about the Luce Scholars Program.