Student Spotlight: Sydney Leiter

Sydney Leiter student spotlight graphic

When Sydney Leiter crossed the stage during the School of Social Work graduation, she came one step closer to realizing a dream she’s had for a while.

Leiter, who was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, discovered a passion for helping others during international service trips before college, which pushed her to enroll at the University of Georgia.

“Those really inspired me and developed this love in me of service and working with nonprofits,” Leiter said. “As I was thinking about college, about what I wanted to do, I was thinking that where I wanted to end up was in non-profits.”

Leiter graduated with a double major in public relations and sociology last May. She used her undergraduate degrees as a foundation to learn more about social issues and how to communicate their importance to others. She continued her education as a Double Dawg, enrolling in the School of Social Work’s master’s of arts in nonprofit management and leadership (MA NML) program.

As she made her way through the program, Lieter appreciated that many instructors who were teaching grant writing, fundraising and other topics were non-profit leaders themselves. The program’s internship required her to spend 500 hours with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia where she learned how to manage a capital campaign, programming, development, volunteer management and other aspects of non-profit management.

Her journey toward becoming a Fulbright Scholar, which aims to expand perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue, started in April 2022, when Leiter researched the latest grants and opportunities. She honed in on her undergraduate skill set for help.

“This idea of teaching English abroad was really enticing to me because I want to work in communications within a nonprofit, and a lot of that is going to be communicating across language borders and communicating with diverse populations,” she said. “So I thought this experience of teaching English abroad would really help me develop the skills of cultural competency and communicating with people from different backgrounds.”

As an English-only speaker, her list of potential countries was short, and she was able to narrow down her opportunities to teaching high school and college-aged students as an area of interest. Later, she researched various countries, including Slovakia, where she applied for a position, receiving her acceptance letter in March.

When she returns stateside, she hopes to work in the non-profit sector in a communications capacity, with a long-term goal of one day owning a non-profit bookstore. While she prepares to ship off to Levice to teach at a college preparatory school for 10 months, she is thankful for the Fulbright Scholarship award she received.

“It’s such a huge honor,” said Leiter, one of only 8,000 nationwide recipients. “It is such a prestigious grant; it is so hard to get. It is such hard work making it out of the application process, so I think it is just a reflection on my passion for this work and everything I have done in undergrad and grad school, and a reflection of my passion and joy and dedication to English literacy, communications and nonprofit work.”

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