Study abroad scholarship honors UNL alumna

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Study abroad scholarship honors UNL alumna

UNL student Sophie Loveless taught English with a group dedicated to helping impoverished African widows and mothers gain skills and personal income. (Courtesy)

Jessica Lutton Bedient was passionate about experiencing other cultures and serving others. To honor her life, which tragically ended three years ago, a study abroad scholarship was established in her memory at her alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sophie Loveless of Kearney was awarded the first Jessica Lutton Bedient Study Abroad Scholarship to study and serve others in Africa this year.

Bedient, a 26 year-old newlywed, died on Oct. 13, 2010, four days after she and her husband, Tony Bedient, were in a traffic accident in Omaha.

To allow others to pursue their educational dreams, Jessica’s parents, David and Susan Lutton of Ashland, established the scholarship with the help of memorial gifts from family members and friends. The permanently endowed fund of more than $55,000 at the University of Nebraska Foundation provides annual scholarships for students in the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs program at UNL.

The fund helps cover travel and related expenses of students pursuing a minor in human rights and humanitarian affairs who, as part of their capstone experience within the minor, may choose to complete a service learning project abroad. The scholarship enabled Loveless, a junior political science, global studies and history major, to expand her understanding of the world by studying abroad.

This summer, Loveless spent two months in Rwanda and Uganda as she learned about conflict in the area and how peace may be restored. Following her studies in Uganda, she returned to Rwanda to work with MIDIMAR, the refugee management department of the Rwandan government. She also taught English with a group dedicated to helping impoverished widows and mothers gain skills and personal income.

Loveless went to Africa to better understand the conflicts in Rwanda and Uganda; however, what she learned in her time abroad was even more meaningful to her.

“I did fall short in my search for understanding,” she said. “But I am not disappointed by this. I don’t think that anyone can ever actually understand the evil in the world. But to know how to help; that is the thing that will make the most difference. I learned what humanitarian work really means and how to establish a career I can be proud of and help the most people I can in the best way possible.”

Ari Kohen, director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, said he is excited for students in the program to have more scholarship opportunities through the fund.

“The scholarship is a real game-changer,” he said. “To have a human rights program of study, a human rights minor, and to be able to offer students a $2,500 scholarship to help them study abroad and to participate in a service learning capstone experience for their minor while they’re overseas — I just don’t think there’s anything like it.”

Kohen, a UNL associate professor of political science, said he believes the purpose behind the scholarship mirrors several things Bedient valued.

“I learned from spending time talking with Jessica’s parents that she had this real focus, this real interest and passion for travel and learning about other cultures, and this idea of a service learning opportunity was one that they told me fit her personality,” Kohen said. “It’s nice that we’re able to help honor her memory in a way that is really meaningful, by sending a new generation of students to go do the sort of thing that she found so important and so valuable.”

Bedient joined the University of Nebraska Foundation in 2008 as a development officer for the College of Business Administration at UNL. In 2010, she worked from the foundation’s Omaha office as director of development for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service and the College of Information Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Bedient graduated from the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2006 and was pursuing a master of business administration degree. While she continues to be missed, her positive influence on students at UNL has a lasting impact.

“This trip changed my life,” Loveless said. “I see things differently and am so much more grateful for the people around me and for the things that I never have to want for in my life. I am honored to have received this gift and to be able to honor Jessica’s memory in such a meaningful way.”

To learn more about the Jessica Lutton Bedient Study Abroad fund or to make a contribution, contact Josh Egley at the University of Nebraska Foundation at jegley@nufoundation.org or 402-458-1202.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 77 years. In 2013, donors provided the university with $236.7 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty support and facilities. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.5 billion for the university and concludes in 2014. For more information, go to http://www.campaignfornebraska.org.

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