“We are passionate about students making a difference, engaging in community, and dedication to having a positive impact in the lives of others. Education is a powerful instrument to make our world a place where people can strive and live together, regardless of gender, nationality, race, and their beliefs.”
— Bernhard Kohlmeier & Lisa Ann Mikulencak
We are pleased to announce Emily Wills, a German Studies, Political Science, and History major, as the 2019-2020 recipient of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak scholarship in honor of Arthur Poznanski (1927-2009). The Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship is awarded to a student who, despite intense pressure to remain silent, resists intolerance by shining a light on oppression and speaking their personal truth.
In her application, Emily shares, “the church I began attending during my first year at Western Washington University voted to become a ‘Reconciling in Christ’ congregation, which simply means that they publish a statement welcoming all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I, along with a few friends, spoke in favor of becoming a publicly inclusive congregation. It was terrifying to tell a group of older Christians that I am gay, but it was important to tell them why being a publicly welcoming community truly matters to LGBTQIA+ people. My church in Bellingham voted almost unanimously in favor of the measure and I believe my testimony helped make this important change possible.”
Later, Emily gave a sermon to her home congregation about her experience as a gay Christian woman. It was a daunting task for Emily and she feared her words may not matter to anyone. After carefully considering the importance of positive LGBTQIA+ representation in a church environment, and fully appreciating her own need for personal integrity, Emily courageously shared her story with the congregation. The results were immediate. “After I gave my sermon, dozens of people approached, hugged, and thanked me,” she said. “I want to use the privilege that I have, as someone who has been able to safely come out of the closet, to help change attitudes and make it safer for others to be themselves too.”
Through voice and action, Emily lets her light shine. She is a true embodiment of the spirit of Arthur’s life work and befittingly honors his memory.
The Wolpow Institute staff deeply appreciates the scholarship opportunities provided by Bernhard Kohlmeier and Lisa Ann Mikulencak. Their generosity directly assists students like Emily and is a benefit to all Western students, faculty, and staff who have the privilege to know her.
These are some of the words that stand-out to describe Emily’s character by those who already know her.