The Citizen Scholars program launched in fall 2016 preparing the next generation of diverse, high-achieving, and engaged citizen leaders. The first three graduates of the program graduated last spring. This spring and summer, there are 11 more students who are graduating from the program while earning their undergraduate degrees. 

“I hope when they look back at their years here at MSU they will remember fondly at how much they were cared for and how each and every one of their talents were pushed forward,” said Camelia Suleiman, Interim Director of the program. “I also hope they appreciate the skills that they learned. How to engage in public discussion in a civil and respectful way and how to take part in the community like we did a lot of here in Lansing.” 

I hope when they look back at their years here at MSU they will remember fondly at how much they were cared for and how each and every one of their talents were pushed forward.


A collaboration between all departments within the College of Arts & Letters, the Citizen Scholars program cultivates commitments to diversity, inclusiveness, social justice, and the positive transformation of self and society while preparing undergraduate students for meaningful careers and leadership roles in this vast growing 21st-century world.

Citizen Scholars also gain experience in high-impact learning environments such as study abroad, study away, internships, service learning, and civic interactions. Students who complete the program receive a $5,000 scholarship to be used for study abroad, study away, undergraduate research, internships, or other enrichment opportunities. 

The 11 Citizen Scholars graduating from the program this spring and summer include:

Grace Beltowski

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Grace Beltowski

Grace Beltowski received a B.A. in Professional Writing and used the funding from the Citizen Scholars program for a study abroad trip to Peru where she focused on environmental communication. 

“The study abroad experience itself was valuable because it helped me see how I can use my professional writing skills to solve problems and benefit others, which tied together everything I have learned as a Citizen Scholar,” Beltowski said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have such a valuable experience without the mindset instilled in me by Citizen Scholars and the program’s financial support.”

Beltowski would like to have a career in publishing and her Professional Writing degree combined with the Citizen Scholars program has helped provide a good foundation for that. 

“My experience with Citizen Scholars has given me access to many different resources that I would not have otherwise had at my disposal,” Beltowski said. “The connections that I have built with professors, faculty, and my peers have enhanced my college career.”

Kai Benson

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Kai Benson

Kai Benson received a B.A. in Professional Writing and used the Citizen Scholars funding for a study abroad trip to London and a study away trip to New York City. 

“During my time in the Citizen Scholars program, I took courses that implemented critical thinking and civic engagement,” she said. “The Citizen Scholar courses helped me become a better writer, while also allowing me time to reflect on my experiences.”

Benson would like to become a manager/senior book editor for Young Adult novels, with the ultimate goal of becoming editor in chief of her own publication, a creative magazine on mental health for teens.

“My courses in PW have prepared me to take on any publishing task, willingly and headstrong,” she said. “I am now able to personally relate to a range of people through their writing, despite any language barriers, and quickly adapt to different writing styles and genres.”

Abby Jaroszewicz

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Abby Jaroszewicz

Abby Jaroszewicz received a B.A. in English, is a graduate of the Honors College, and this year’s recipient of the College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Award. She used her Citizen Scholars funding for a study abroad trip to London to study literature last summer.

“[The study abroad to London] was the most amazing experience,” she said. “I was able to explore Europe, and I learned so much from some amazing professors.”

Jaroszewicz plans to attend graduate school at MSU for Student Affairs Administration and eventually would like to work at a university as either a major advisor or for the admissions department.

“I have learned so much here at MSU, about how to be a good person and a good citizen. I have figured out what I want to do with my life, how I want to use my education to make the world a better place,” Jaroszewicz said. “I feel ready to take on the world. I feel prepared with my Spartan education.”

Sam Meade

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Sam Meade

Sam Meade graduated with a dual major in Interdisciplinary Humanities and History and as part of the Honors College. During his time at MSU, he worked for the Department of Theatre and the College of Music as an Assistant Director. He also was an Honors floor Resident Assistant in Bryan Hall for the last two years.

Last summer, Meade went abroad to Cambridge University in the United Kingdom as part of its Interdisciplinary Summer Program. He said he is “incredibly grateful for the Citizen Scholars scholarship, which allowed him to study at Cambridge.”

He looks forward to starting his master’s degree program at Yale Divinity School in the fall and hopes to one day enter a Ph.D. program focusing on how religion has shaped nationalist movements in the modern world.

Lindsey Mutz

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Lindsey Mutz

Lindsey Mutz graduated with a double major in English and Film Studies. During her time at MSU, Mutz interned for NBC’s The Tonight Show and for Saturday Night Live. She used her Citizen Scholars funding for both internships in New York City.

“It would have been a lot harder to afford living in New York if I didn’t have that scholarship,” Mutz said. “A big part of Citizen Scholars is experiencing other cultures, going to different events you would not normally go to, and experiencing things that are outside of your comfort zone, that was New York for me.”

While at MSU, Mutz worked for MSU Telecasters, a student organization that produces seven different television shows, two of which Mutz helped write scripts for. 

“Telecasters prepared me for the rigor of The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live,” she said. “It also helped me learn how to write jokes, work a camera, and work with other people to put on a show.”

Now that she has graduated, Mutz plans to move to New York City to pursue work in the TV industry.

Kelly Phalen

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Kelly Phalen

Kelly Phalen received a B.F.A. in Graphic Design with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. During her time at MSU, Phalen has had several internships. For almost two years, she was a Graphic Design Intern at the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MSU where she was able to combine what she has learned from both her major and minor through her work. 

Phalen also was a Graphic Design Intern at Rj Michaels Inc., a marketing and design agency, and at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. She was a Content Strategist at Gravity Works Design and Development and at MSU served as the Senior Art Director at VIM Magazine. 

“The Citizen Scholars program has reiterated the importance of having a strong community around,” she said. “I was constantly inspired by the work that my fellow Citizen Scholars were doing.” 

Now that she has graduated, Phalen plans to intern with Onemagnify, a marketing and communications agency in Detroit. 

Brooklyn Rue 

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Brooklyn Rue is graduating at the end of the second summer session with a double major in English and Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities. Last summer, she participated in the Literature in London study abroad, a six-week program that connects students with various writers, poets, and playwrights in London while also visiting cultural sites connected to the courses. She partially funded the trip with her Citizen Scholars scholarship. 

What Rue took away from that trip that she hadn’t considered before is the possibility of having writing as a career option. 

“The access that Citizen Scholars provides through the scholarship gives students the opportunity to be engaged,” she said. “Through the trip, I realized I actually really enjoy reading and writing poetry.” 

After graduation, Rue would like to work for some kind of publication or an arts and cultural institution.

Sophie Schmidt

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Sophie Schmidt

Sophie Schmidt graduated with a B.A. in Professional Writing and a minor in Asian Pacific American Studies. She also graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and is the 2020 recipient of both the Professional Writing Outstanding Major Award and the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence. She used the Citizen Scholars funding for a study abroad internship at Brookside Publishing Services in Dublin, Ireland, last summer. 

“The Citizen Scholars program made that opportunity possible because of the scholarship they provided,” Schmidt said. “With that scholarship, this trip was really affordable, and it gave me six credits toward my major. It was an incredible experience. I got to work in a publishing house in Dublin, and it was really awesome to do hands-on work that I hope to do in the future.”  

Schmidt was accepted into the New York University Publishing Institute and the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford. She plans to attend the NYU program during summer 2021. 

Abigail Scott

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Abigail Scott

Scott graduated with a B.A. in English and a perfect 4.0 GPA. For the past two years, Scott was a Communications Intern with the College of Arts & Letters Excel Network. She also worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Department of English. 

She used the Citizen Scholars funding to study abroad in Ireland, where she focused on studying Irish literature, which was the topic of her English senior thesis.

“Going on that trip had been a dream of mine since I was in eighth grade and, truly, if it were not for the financial funding from the Citizen Scholars program, I would not have been able to go,” Scott said. “Studying the literature, on top of immersing myself in the culture, enabled me to learn so much about the country’s writing tradition. It is an experience that I will carry with me forever.”

After graduation, Scott would like to find a job in the communications field.

Margo Skornia 

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Margo Skornia

Margo Skornia graduated with a double major in Theatre and Chinese. She used her Citizen Scholars funding on a two-month study abroad trip to China the summer before her sophomore year, which allowed her to finish her Chinese major. She also used the funding to complete an apprenticeship at the historic Bread and Puppet Theatre in Glover, Vermont, where she lived and worked for three weeks last summer and helped build their 2019-2020 season.

“I am grateful for the monetary and academic support Citizen Scholars has provided throughout my time at MSU,” Skornia said. “Just being in Citizen Scholars and the emphasis they put on the importance of study abroad and having a global experience was very helpful and made me recognize that this is something that is fundamental to being a global person and a global citizen.” 

Skornia now plans to pursue an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy at the University of Iowa where she will research theatre and the impact it has on communities, especially during the Great Depression.

Triniti Watson 

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Triniti Watson

Triniti Watson received a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Humanities with a focus on Philosophy, Professional Writing, and Cultural Anthropology and a minor in African and African American Studies. She is the co-founder of the first edition of the “MSU Black Book,” a service and resource guide to help first-year African American students become acclimated with campus resources.

During her time at MSU, she was a member of the North Neighborhood Black Caucus and a Student Assistant for the LGBT Resource Center. She also was a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Intercultural Aide for the MRULE-ICA Program her senior year and was involved with the program for three years.

Watson used her Citizen Scholars funding for a study abroad trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines where she learned more about freedom and autonomy in post-colonial spaces in the African Diaspora. She says this spring break 2020 trip “would not have been possible without  Citizen Scholars.”

This next year, Watson would like to work full time in the nonprofit industry in the Detroit area. “Through this work, I want to focus on community advocacy and city innovation,” she said. “Afterwards, I’ll be applying to Ph.D. programs with interests in social policy, Black Feminist Praxis, and comparative politics.”