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Taking Initiative, One Project at a Time
Mona Lotfipour ’12
With her characteristic enthusiasm and friendly disposition, Mona Lotfipour ’12 beams as she describes her experience as a member of F&M’s Presidential Search Committee. The 16-member committee completed its work in November with the selection of Daniel Porterfield as the College’s 15th president.
“Members of the committee were so incredibly passionate about F&M, excited about being here and being part of something so great,” says Lotfipour, who represented the student body on the committee along with Sam Schmader ’12. “It made me realize how fortunate we are to be here. It made me want to walk around campus and soak it all up.”
It is difficult to imagine that there is anything that Lotfipour hasn’t soaked up during her two-plus years on campus. The biochemistry and molecular biology major has made significant contributions inside and outside the classroom, from two Hackman summer scholarships to a growing list of community-service initiatives she has either introduced or helped to develop. She is a recipient of F&M's prestigious Rouse Scholarship, which is awarded to Franklin & Marshall students who have achieved academic excellence while demonstrating unusual leadership. Though she is too modest to admit it, Lotfipour plays a major role in shaping the College she loves so much.
“When I came to visit F&M, I knew this is where I would go,” Lotfipour says. “One of the reasons I decided to come here was the community feeling that exists on campus, in addition to the incredible research opportunities.”
Lotfipour’s interest in community service took off at the beginning of her first year at F&M, when she participated in Putting it Together in the Community (PIT). She and her PIT group worked with Habitat for Humanity and remain close friends. The experience got Lotfipour thinking about ways to enhance community service among members of Ware College House, her new home. After brainstorming ideas, she proposed a program called “Ware in the World.” Along with fellow students and Joel Eigen, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and Ware College House don, she has helped the program blossom in its first two years.
“The students were engaged in community service, but not in a central place in our house,” says Lotfipour, who is part of the Ware book club and has been a House adviser for two years. “It’s a great way for students to get involved in community service and raise awareness of different issues. We have a Thanksgiving dinner for refugee families, and raised money for Heifer International. I love being involved in the house.”
Lotfipour has helped refugee families through a variety of means, including Ware in the World, an internship at the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement and a Citizenship course she took last year. She shares a special connection with people moving to America, having moved with her family from her native Iran to Shavertown, Pa. at age 7. The Citizenship course, led by Susan Dicklitch, associate dean of the College, director of the Ware Institute and associate professor of government, and Kent Trachte, dean of the College, reminded Lotfipour of the difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country.
“Helping a refugee family made me realize how being an immigrant has impacted my life,” she says. “My family is so established here, but at one point, we weren’t. It’s difficult to learn English and to learn how to get around town. Refugee families are in the same boat, and they have additional hardship.”
Lotfipour’s passion for her local community reached a new level last year, when she initiated F&M’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). From January to April, 20 students worked with low- to moderate-income wage earners who could not prepare their own tax returns. This year, Lotfipour expects that number to triple. “I started crying the first time I did someone’s taxes,” she says.
Even with all of her community service activity, Lotfipour does not lose sight of her academic goals. She already has significant research experience, having worked closely with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kate Plass on Hackman scholarship projects each of the past two summers. Lotfipour would eventually like to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases in developing countries. “I’m a big Paul Farmer fan,” she says of the renowned anthropologist and physician. “His interpretation of applying medicine in the global arena is fascinating to me because it all falls under the umbrella of human rights.”
Soon, Lotfipour will begin studying for the MCATs and thinking about medical school applications. She is quick to credit others at F&M for their support, especially Dicklitch and Eigen, professors she calls “absolutely inspirational.”
How does she manage to get it all accomplished?
“It sounds like I do a lot, but the key is to do everything you love. And then, everything else falls into place.”
Updated Feb. 20, 2012