Gephardt Institute selects new class of Civic Scholars

Program designed to prepare next generation of civic leaders

The Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University in St. Louis has selected seven juniors as the second cohort of its Civic Scholars Program, joining five seniors selected last year.

The students were chosen from a competitive pool for their outstanding qualifications, exemplary dedication to community engagement and potential for civic leadership. The Civic Scholars enroll in two years of academic course work related to civic leadership and receive mentorship to prepare them for a life dedicated to public service.

In addition, each student receives an award of $5,000 to support a substantial civic project or internship during the summer after his or her junior year. These funds are provided in part by donors to the university’s scholarship campaign, “Opening Doors to the Future.”

Civic Scholars already have a passion for community involvement and service, but have an unparalleled opportunity to develop their potential further through this program. Junior Joshua Aiken appreciates belonging to a cohort of like-minded students.

“The student leaders that I admired most for their integrity, passion and commitment to the public good were a part of the program,” he says. “I’ve already learned that part of being a civic leader is being a work in progress. Twenty years down the road I won’t have completed my civic journey. Instead, I will be engaging in a life committed to public service because of this program.”

Junior Ayah Abo-Basha concurs, noting that the program’s strength lies in its ability to help students engage, whether in the classroom, on a field trip to Washington, D.C., at dinner with someone from the Gephardt Institute or having coffee with one of the institute’s ‘civic mentors.’

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to engage with such a vibrant and passionate community,” she says, “and I look forward to continually learning from the collaborative spirit this program offers.”

For more information, contact Jenni Harpring, program manager, at (314) 935-8182 or

Class of 2014 cohort of Civic Scholars:

Joshua Aiken of Chandler, Ariz., is double majoring in comparative politics and social psychology, both in Arts & Sciences. He is interested in working with marginalized populations on issues of mental health and education.

Ayah Abo-Basha of Stillwater, Okla., is majoring in anthropology with a minor in political science, both in Arts & Sciences. She is interested in learning how culture and preventive healthcare can be combined to improve quality of life and eliminate inequity.

Hallie Dobkin of Northbrook, Ill., is majoring in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology in Arts & Sciences, with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience. Her civic interests include scaling back the borders that prevent people from connecting to one another.

Avi David Geller of Newton, Mass., is majoring in anthropology and neuroscience, both in Arts & Sciences. He is interested in working with under-resourced communities to address health disparities, especially as related to nutritive health.

Tiffini Hyatt of Edwardsville, Ill., is a pre-law English and anthropology major in Arts & Sciences with an interest in non-profit law, public policy and educational equity.

Maddie Polk of Nashville, Tenn., is majoring in applied science in the School of Engineering with a minor in the learning sciences in Arts & Sciences. She plans to explore issues of redesigning education, creating sustainable programs and applications of design thinking to social change.

Dylan Simonsen of Durango, Colo., is double majoring in educational studies and Spanish with a minor in African and African-American studies, all in Arts & Sciences. He is interested in developing civic leadership skills to build programs and engage communities in social change.

Juniors and seniors currently serving as Gephardt Institute Civic Scholars recently visited Washington, D.C., for educational tours and visits with policy and decision makers. Front row, from left, juniors Maddie Polk, Hallie Dobkin, Tiffini Hyatt, Ayah Abo-Basha and Joshua Aiken. Back row: Associate Dean of Students and co-instructor of the Civic Scholars Program Jill Stratton, PhD, senior Grace Chao, Gephardt Institute Program Manager Jenni Harpring, senior Michael Harries, senior Peter Birke, senior Pia Marcus, junior Dylan Simonsen, senior Andreas Mitchell, and junior Avi Geller.