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Women Funding Women’s Education
The Sunflower Initiative logo
Women Funding Women’s Education


The Sunflower Initiative has awarded The Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to the following outstanding young women:

Ilse Meiler

2016 — Ilse Meiler

Smith College

Ilse Meiler, our 2016 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, began her first year at Smith in September. Ilse, from Colorado, is fluent in four languages. (Her father is German and her mother is Mexican.) She approached her high school’s chemistry teacher as a freshman, two years before entering his class, to seek his help on a project to determine whether “blood-thinning diseases such as hemophilia compromise the blood spatter patterns used by forensic investigators.” She won the Colorado state science fair in physics not only for the creativity and care with which she did this project but also because of the professional level of her analysis, after having taught herself the field of multivariate statistics just to make sense out of her 500 data trials.

Her history teacher described how she developed ambitious projects for statewide History Day competitions that combined primary research in historical documents with her love of science.

When Ilse shot beyond the level of AP courses and post-AP courses available in French and differential equations, her high school invited her to help out with teachers going on leave so she began teaching first and second period history at the 8th and 9th grade levels. And her science teacher and debate coach commented that “Ilse’s brilliance spans disciplines,” that she thinks globally and understands global complexities.

Ilse is also recognized for her writing skills, having won regional and state prizes this spring in drama, critical essays, and poetry. She joined the Young Ambassador program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center, for which she worked at the History Colorado Center in Denver in the summer of 2016.

Emily Moss

2015 — Emily Moss

Wellesley College

The Sunflower Initiative’s fourth recipient of the Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship is Emily Moss of Bedford, Massachusetts. Emily is an impressive young woman. As a high school student, she was involved in the Student Government Association as President of her class, and she has served on the Principal’s Advisory Committee. Her passion for economics and public policy were sparked further through an Economic Development Internship she held with the Town of Bedford during her senior year of high school. As a well-rounded young woman, Emily has gained self-discipline and a passion for the arts through her study of ballet.

Now a sophomore at Wellesley, Emily focuses on economics, international law, and public policy. She is particularly interested in education for girls and women’s human rights. In her essay accompanying her application, she wrote with excitement about her desire to be in an environment where it is the norm for women to hold positions of leadership and study whatever field they choose. She wrote, “When you are surrounded by the expectation that every woman is doing something amazing with her time you naturally grow accustomed to women’s leadership and adopt the mentality that you can do anything. My career, as is any endeavor, is undoubtedly possible – because in every other room, I’m treated like a woman; at Wellesley, I’m treated like a person.”

Marley Forest

2014 — Marley Forest

Wellesley College

Marley Forest of Bend Oregon, the third recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship, is now a junior at Wellesley College where she is studying International Relations and Political Science.

The 2014 applicant pool was the strongest in the history of the scholarship. As an International Baccalaureate student, Marley’s curriculum was the most rigorous possible in an American public high School. She attended Bend High School. Marley’s high school activities span music, sports and community service.

After being at Wellesley for a short time Marley said, ”Every woman I have met here has done so much and will do so much, and it is incredible to know that here at Wellesley all of these bright women will be given the space and the resources to flourish in their careers and lives after college. I feel that I am beginning to now truly understand why a women’s college education is so important.”

Chelsea Qsademe

2013 — Chelsea Osademe

Spelman College

Chelsea Osademe of Pine Bluff, Arkansas was the 2013 recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship. She received the Fitzgerald Scholarship for three years while studying at Spelman College where she is pursuing her goal to become a college English professor.

Chelsea sees attendance at a woman’s college as the best environment for her to develop “from a girl to a strong woman … where my dreams can come to fruition.” At Spelman, she is involved with NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps with Morehouse College), she was a Resident Advisor, and she served as the Freshman Class Council Treasurer. Additionally, she was involved with Peace and Love AUC (Atlanta University Center), the African Student Association, and the Spelman College Granddaughter’s Club.

Reflecting on her first year at Spelman, Chelsea said, “Without the aid of the Sunflower Initiative Scholarship, I would not have the wonderful opportunity of attending Spelman College. Attending an all-women’s college is a privilege and joy not known to many. It has afforded me the opportunity to grow in a community full of beautiful, talented, competitive, and loving women who are amazingly diverse, yet just like me.”

Aastha Sharma

2012 — Aastha Sharma

Wesleyan College

Aastha Sharma, our first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, graduated summa cum laude on May 14 from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Aastha had a double major, Applied Mathematical Science and Chemistry, and she completed an Honors Program entitled “Molecular Dynamics Study of Plasticity during Nanoindentation of Copper Crystals.” For each of her four years at Wesleyan, Aastha received the $10,000 Fitzgerald Scholarship, and we take great pride in her accomplishments at an all women’s college.

Aastha will continue her studies at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign where she will work toward a PhD in Materials Chemistry/Engineering.

At Wesleyan, Aastha was involved with campus life through the SGA and the KME Math Club. In her role as President of the Math Club, she coordinated events to encourage young women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields and she conducted tutoring sessions to help students develop basic math skills.

Aastha also had two summer internships at SAKHI (an anti-domestic violence organization primarily serving the South Asian community in New York City) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (in Germany) where she was “encouraged to push boundaries and to work diligently to pursue [her] dreams, while advocating for those voices [that] might be silenced or unheard.”

Reflecting on her experiences at a woman’s college, Aastha stated, “If I had not been surrounded by smart, ambitions, intelligent and driven women in a multicultural environment, I would not be the confident woman I am today.”

See what Aastha has to say about the impact of The Sunflower Initiative: