May 30, 2024

Layren McDannold ’23 has been awarded the Anne Wexler Scholarship in Public Policy from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

The award will allow McDannold to go to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in public policy while also conducting research into the generational impacts of the climate crisis and how political apathy and distrust affects climate legislation. She is currently considering Australian universities in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney in part due to the universities’ esteemed public policy programs and their proximity to affected populations of the climate crisis based on bush fire and flood risk.

McDannold’s interest in political apathy was inspired by similar research she conducted alongside Shari Jacobson, associate professor of anthropology and department chair of sociology & anthropology at Susquehanna University.

“As I engaged with one-on-one interviews and group observations, I became very aware of just how prominent political apathy was, but also how it seemed different in relation to college students than it did compared to, say, my older family members or acquaintances,” McDannold said. “I also saw a lot of students were worried about big issues like climate change but felt too overwhelmed and confused to participate in advocacy. I am incredibly passionate about political movements, especially as they pertain to younger generations, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to pursue research like this.”

Through her Fulbright research, McDannold will analyze polling data and conduct surveys with local citizens to determine their trust in the government and motivation for citizen advocacy or lack thereof in relation to the climate. Her overall goal is to increase citizen trust in government and public advocacy for the climate crisis and promote green legislation that combats warming and addresses the issues being accelerated by the climate crisis, including resource scarcity, disease and conflict.

“After I complete my master’s degree, I plan to work in the nonprofit or NGO sectors to create policy and facilitate civic engagement around sustainability efforts in order to generate green spaces, political education and economic prosperity in rural, impoverished areas,” McDannold said. “This will ideally be through international organizations that prioritize sustainability and social welfare and justice.”

After gaining valuable in-field experience, McDannold plans to pursue a doctorate in sustainability and a career in sustainable development or academia.

McDannold graduated from Susquehanna summa cum laude with departmental honors, earning a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and political science with an emphasis in comparative cultures.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the federal government. It is funded through an annual appropriation made by Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program currently operates in over 160 countries worldwide.