Scholarship recipients 2017-2020

“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


The Ray Wolpow Institute takes great pleasure in announcing Taylor Stuber-Proden as the recipient of the 2020-2021 Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski (1927-2009). This scholarship is awarded to a Western student who, by refusing to give up, has overcome profound adversity, and who also comes to embrace adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Taylor Stuber-Proden standing against a wall.

Taylor, a sophomore, likes skiing (both water & snow), cooking, swimming, hiking, and is a visual artist. As a community volunteer and victim advocate, Taylor utilizes the skills she has acquired over the years to continue her personal development while also helping others with theirs. When an assault against her in high school propelled her into a maze of barriers within the institutes responsible for her safety and well-being, she learned that existing laws were not properly enforced, and something needed to be done to stop the silencing of assault victims.

Survivors of sexual assault often stay silent because, in too many instances, they learn their voice does not matter. Young victims who report violent incidents are often disregarded by those people responsible for their protection, and who encourage them to remain silentEventually, it was Taylor’s instinct to protect another student that provided the clarity she needed to persist. Taylor found her voice and forced the necessary conversations that needed to take place, not only to protect herself, but also those students who have, or will, experience similar victimization.

Once Taylor set aside her fear, she was no longer going to be silent and she reported the assault to the police and the press. Determined to make a difference in her state’s education system, Taylor’s advocacy efforts eventually found their way to the state senate. With the guidance and support of Oregon State Senator, Floyd Prozanski, Taylor is responsible for the initiation of legislation that calls for the revision of common definitions in sexual assault laws within public and private education systems, requires and expands investigation and reporting protocol, and creates civil action damages for failure of these institutes to adequately report suspected sexual misconduct. (Senate Bill 912)

In Frances Badgett’s article, The Stories They Shared (Window Magazine, Summer 2019), Badgett describes how the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski came to be. Victor Poznanski, Arthur’s son, who lived with an irrational sense of shame related to his father’s experiences during the Holocaust, eventually shared this story with a work colleague, Bernhard Kohlmeier. Due to this conversation, and Bernhard’s ensuing friendship, Victor decided that continual negative attachment to his father’s story wasn’t justified. The “keys to stopping harm in our culture,” he said, “are storytelling and education.” Subsequently, Victor began to publicly share Arthur’s inspiring story of resilience with those who he hoped would benefit by hearing it. And soon after, an educational scholarship to support Western Washington University students who are doing the same was born.

Taylor wanted to make a permanent change to a broken system. Through strength and determination and accompanied by the support of her family and other allies, she found her right path. By refusing to be silent, by telling her story, and doing the work that needed to be done, Taylor discovered her center.

Congratulations Taylor Stuber-Proden, the 2020-2021 recipient of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski! Thank you for making a difference in our communities.

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, Western’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance, and Survivor Advocacy Services WWU are available to help. You deserve to feel safe and supported. You are not alone. It is not your fault. We BELIEVE you.

Western’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance, 360-650-3307, Washington Relay: 711, crtc@wwu.edu

Western’s Together Against Sexual Violencehttp://wp.wwu.edu/sexualviolence/

Local and National 24-Hour Support
DVSAS/Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, 1-877-715-1563, https://www.dvsas.org
LVOC/Lummi Victims of Crime, 360-312-2015, https://www.facebook.com/Lummi-Victims-of-Crime-224037844249144

County-Specific Resources in Washington
WSCADV/Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, https://wscadv.org/washington-domestic-violence-programs/
WCSAP/Washington Coalition Sexual Assault Programs, https://www.wcsap.org/help/csap-by-city

National Resources
NDVH/National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233, https://www.thehotline.org/
Love is Respect, https://www.loveisrespect.org/
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673, https://www.rainn.org/
LGBTQ+ Specific Support, 1-206-568-7777, https://www.nwnetwork.org/

“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

 


Emily Wills

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.

Congratulations Emily! 

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.

“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

HOKU RIVERA, an English & Anthropology major in the Honors Program, is the 2nd recipient of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak scholarship. This year’s scholarship was awarded in honor of Arthur Poznanski (1927-2009), a Holocaust survivor who lost most of his family during the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the European Jews. He survived Buchenwald’s concentration camp, starvation, and slave labor to ultimately escape from a transport despite being severely wounded. After the war, living in England, he dedicated his life to his community and to educating youth about discrimination and bigotry. A wonderful father and husband, his legacy is a true inspiration for generations to come.

Hoku’s application rose to the top as she offered a broadminded and expressive response to the application’s supplemental question, “When have you stood up for an individual or a group of people in a meaningful way and made a difference to that group?” Hoku’s leadership and organizational skills shine as she describes her involvement with the March 24th, 2018 March for Our Lives; a peaceful demonstration against our nation’s gun violence and for more stringent gun regulation.

Prior to the march, Hoku connected with various civic groups to encourage their involvement, spoke at meetings, organized youth volunteers, interacted with the media, and coordinated booth hosts. Yet her work didn’t stop there, Hoku said, “speaking of the march itself, I was the first there and the last to leave.” At the end of the event, Hoku conducted post-event clean-up, thanked the individuals in the host booths, and gathered over 700 letters and postcards that were destined for our public officials.

Hoku is clearly a well-organized leader, and her humanity shines further still as she discusses her accomplishments and commitment to making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Here, she graciously shares the accolades for the successful civic event, saying “considering that the march was nearly canceled due to lack of organization two weeks prior to the event, which is when I joined, I am really proud of what all of us were able to accomplish.”

Professional

These are some of the words that stand out to describe Hoku by those who know her and are attributes that will serve the 2018-2019 Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship recipient, and the greater community, well as she progresses through her senior year at WWU. Already, organizations such as Western’s Amnesty International and the Teaching-Learning Academy have benefited from this purpose-driven and generous individual.

Congratulations Hoku! 

We here at the Wolpow Institute look forward to getting to know you better over the next year, and we remain grateful that a generous donation from the Kohlmeier Mikulencak family is available to assist students, like you, with their multi-faceted educational pursuits.

We’re pleased to note that in August 2018, both the donor and the recipient of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship were featured in the yearly Board of Trustees University Advancement Report.  For more information about Hoku Rivera and how the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski came into being, please read more of the story here.

Hannah BlankHannah Blank sitting amidst a vast meadow.

Hannah is the first-ever recipient of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak scholarship. Hannah is a junior at WWU in the Honors Program, pursuing a major in Anthropology and minors in Spanish and Journalism Public Relations.

During her time at Western, Hannah has been involved with the CAST meal program. The CAST meal program is an organization that prepares and serves simple meals to the homeless community in downtown Bellingham with the Newman Center once a week. Every Monday evening is spent in a parking lot chatting and giving out sandwiches and hot drinks to those in need.

“The hours I spend downtown has fostered a love for these people who I know by name and now call friends. Many of them have told me their stories and it occurred to me that human interaction is not something they encounter… This program has opened my eyes to society’s dehumanization of the homeless population. By ignoring them, we are refusing to acknowledge that our community has an issue.”

Hannah has also been involved in the Northwest Youth Services  (NWYS) through a service-learning project. Hannah, along with a group of fellow WWU students, worked closely with NWYS to discuss and promote awareness of homeless in the Bellingham community through a campus screening of the Homeless in Bellingham film series.

“I know this involvement is creating a positive impact on the city as a whole, both by supporting the at risk community and creating a greater awareness of this problem so many people face. This awareness leads to action and more involvement from the community as a whole.”

These are just two examples of Hannah’s outstanding community service. She also volunteers annually with the Convoy of Hope with local churches, businesses, community service and health organizations to provide guests with groceries, medical and dental screenings, haircuts, lunch, veteran services, music, a kids’ carnival, children’s shoes, job and career services, community services, family portraits and more. Hannah has also worked with surrounding villages of Jinja, Uganda through a program called Grace Giving International, providing food, clothing, and feminine hygiene products to those in need.

Not only is Hannah involved in giving back to her community, but she is also an outstanding student having received several awards including: the Washington State Honors Award in 2015, the WWU Admission with Distinction in 2015, the WWU Opportunity Pathway Scholarship in 2015-16, the WWU President’s Scholarship in 2015-16, the WWU Honor Roll in Fall 2016, and the Longenecker & Associates award for distinguished service in 2016.

Congratulations Hannah and keep up the great work!

More from Hannah…

“I’m currently pursuing a major in Anthropology with minors in Journalism (Public Relations) and Spanish. My current plan after college includes volunteering with the Peace Corps for two years as well as applying for the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. I want to not only encourage, but support and provide avenues for others to pursue higher education. With the Peace Corps, I hope to volunteer by teaching English as a foreign language in a Spanish speaking country. If accepted to the fellowship, my hope is to fill the nine-month long excursion with research surrounding the issues of orphanages, inter-country adoption practices, and their relation to the drug wars in Latin America. My long term goal is to be a researcher and photojournalist in both the United States and Latin America. I intend to record and share the lifestyles of people across the globe as well as shed light on issues such as education and poverty.

Education is an investment in someone’s future which can change not one life but many. The choice to receive an education should be available for anyone regardless of their economic or social status. If there is a way that I can improve the system and remove some of the obstacles people face when trying to obtain their own education, then I am going to use my privilege and all resources available to make that goal a reality. Furthermore, I believe that providing access to accounts of cultures across the world will promote a greater understanding, respect, and empathy to those beyond our own borders.”