From star students to global citizens: 30 years of Rotary International at UNT

The Rotary Club of Grapevine and past Rotary district governors gathered in May for a special session to award UNT alumni Odalis Alvarado (’22 M.P.A.) and Charles Wood (’20, ’22 M.P.A.) Honorary Paul Harris Fellowship status. The award, named for the Chicago attorney who founded Rotary International in 1905, is the highest honor in the organization.

From left: Greg Jordan, Grapevine Rotary Club president;
past District 5790 governors Walt Milner, Conrad Heede
and Dan Steele; alumni Charles Wood and Odalis Alvarado;
and Tim Smith, past District 5770 governor.

Alvarado also shared a progress report on the project that earned her a $40,000 Rotary Global Grant in 2022 to study at Queen’s University Belfast, where she worked toward her goal of creating a global foundation to increase access to education for low-income children. This year, Charles Wood won a similar grant to study urban development at Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he will focus on global prospects for affordable and accessible housing.

Cultivating international understanding

Since 1997, UNT has generated more than 51 Rotary scholars. Numerous Rotary Clubs in District 5790, which includes the North Central and Plains Regions of Texas, along with several clubs in other districts, have sponsored a total of more than $1.5 million for UNT winners of Rotary scholarships and grants. Most recently, the Rotary Club of Grapevine and the two Rotary Clubs of Denton have taken the lead in cultivating UNT Rotary Global Grant scholars.

Dr. James Duban, associate dean for research and national scholarships in UNT’s Honors College, has advised Rotary scholarship and grant applicants for nearly three decades.

“UNT students certainly embody the values of Rotary International and its motto of ‘Service Above Self,’” he says, “while the generous members of Rotary believe in the potential of UNT students to make the world a better place.”

Rotarian volunteerism has featured thousands of local and international missions of goodwill. The $40,000 Rotary Global Grants fund either graduating college seniors or graduate students to travel to another country for a year-long program of study that encourages sustainable advancement in one or more of six critical areas:

  • Environmentalism
  • Peace promotion
  • Disease prevention
  • Economic development
  • Advancement of education
  • Promotion of potable water, sanitation and hygiene

“Rotary scholars do not simply enter programs of study with generous funding,” Duban says. “They also interact deeply and meaningfully with numerous Rotarians in their host countries, building lifelong friendships that enhance international understanding.”

Learn more about the Rotary International programs that support UNT students as they set out to change the world.