Travel abroad year will advance seniors’ career options

One graduating senior will mix her interests in military service and in public policy. Another will tap into his interest in how cities worldwide address mobility problems. When they return to the states, she will look for a role that aligns political strategy and military tactics. He will seek a job in the transportation industry or pursue a graduate degree in urban planning.

Danielle Kitchen

Vanderbilt University has awarded its 2018 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship to Danielle Kitchen and Jerom Theunissen. The fellowship aims to develop leaders through world travel and experiential learning. The award will fund one year of the students’ travel, which will begin shortly after Vanderbilt’s Commencement in May.

A $20,000 stipend offers a student the opportunity to pursue an idea or an issue they are passionate about in the context of daily life in communities around the world. Application materials include a plan of study and travel proposal. A committee of alumni fellows, faculty and staff selects the winners.

Kitchen, from Louisville, Kentucky, is a double major in human and organizational development and public policy with a focus in military studies, and a minor in corporate strategy. Through her fellowship project, “A Changing Landscape: Exploring the Identity, Role, and Perception of the Military,” she will travel to 20 countries across five continents to examine the relationship between civilians and the military.

“I became interested in this topic after noticing a startling gap in the United States between civilians deep trust in the military but admittedly low levels of engagement with or knowledge of what the armed services do,” said Kitchen, who has a travel blog. “As civil military relations evolve, we should continue to assess the role of the military as an instrument of foreign policy in order not to marginalize civilian agencies.”

Jerom Theunissen

Jerom Theunissen, from Rye, New York, is a double major in civil engineering and public policy with an urban planning concentration. He will earn a bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering. His fellowship project, “Transportation’s Impact on Urban Livability: The Physics and Human Factors of Mobility,” will allow him to travel to more than 20 countries across six continents and to visit cities of all sizes that either struggle or excel in their effort for enhanced mobility.

“I want to explore strategic directions that innovators have undertaken to incorporate consumer preferences and behaviors via human-centered design,” Theunissen said.

“Urban designers and engineers are primarily concerned with physical aspects of urban infrastructure. Human factors are equally, if not more important, to understanding the preferences and choices people make to get around [cities].” Theunissen would like feedback and messages on his travel blog from anyone interested in his project.


Busy, engaged years at Vanderbilt

Kitchen and Theunissen say study abroad semesters were significant experiences that influenced their particular interest in the Keegan Traveling Fellowship.

Kitchen’s most meaningful college experience was a Semester at Sea, living on a ship, travelling to 12 countries in 104 days, and studying international markets and religion across cultures. She also has spent time abroad at the London School of Economics, where she studied econometrics and post-conflict democracy building.

At Vanderbilt, Kitchen has served as the president and site leader of a spring break service trip organization, an editor for the Vanderbilt Political Review, and a Vanderbilt tour guide. Throughout college, Kitchen spent her summers interning at Google, the Hudson Institute Center for Political-Military Analysis, and in the U.S. House of Representatives. In Nashville, she is part of the local women’s fly fishing team, Music City Fly Girls.

As a Dutch and American national born in Bangkok, Thailand, Theunissen’s background already has exposed him to unique mobility systems in those countries. He says his most profound university experience was studying in Copenhagen, experiencing the city’s bottom-up approach that focuses on evaluating both infrastructure design and human factors of mobility.

Through his work with Vanderbilt Student Government’s Residential and Environmental Affairs Committee, Theunissen improved campus bicycle infrastructure via two Green Fund proposals for bicycle maintenance stations and a covered bike shelter. His contributions to FutureVU, Vanderbilt’s forthcoming campus master plan, include developing the university’s transportation and mobility strategy.

Kitchen and Theunissen will work with the director of Vanderbilt’s Office of Active Citizenship and Service to plan their year of travel and learning. Each must communicate monthly with their project’s faculty adviser and the OACS director while abroad.

Contact: Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering