At 19, a sociology degree, a Fulbright scholarship and a worldly future


At age 19, Arielle Botter has earned two college degrees with highest honors, landed a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study international relations, conducted research on the sociological reason

Summa cum laude graduate Arielle Botter to study international relations in Canada

At age 19, Arielle Botter has earned two college degrees with highest honors, landed a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study international relations, conducted research on the sociological reasons for the violent nationalism among Sri Lanka's Tamil people, and perfected the fine art of clogging.

So excuse her if she's not quite ready to declare the exact career path she'll take.

"I don't want to pigeon hole myself into doing just one thing. Truthfully, I really don't want to exclude anything," said Botter, 19, a Vineland resident who will receive her bachelor's degree in sociology from the College of Liberal Arts on Friday, May 12, during Rowan University's 82nd annual Commencement ceremony. She'll also receive the Samuel Witchell Medallion, symbolic of being the top sociology student.

Botter does know this definitively: she'll pursue her master's degree in international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. And, beginning in September, she'll use her highly competitive Fulbright scholarship to study differences in Canadian and American foreign policy efforts and the effects of those efforts on the foreign countries.

"It's possible I'll look at AIDS in Africa and policies in Afghanistan," said Botter, who will conduct her Fulbright research at Carleton. She's the second student in Rowan's College of Liberal Arts to receive a Fulbright for 2006-07. The program provides talented students with grants to study abroad.

Don't be surprised if it takes Botter less than two years to complete her graduate work. After all, she's on a fast track to success.

Botter earned her high school diploma through Academy Northwest, an online program for young people who are homeschooled. Botter, who attended private school in Cumberland County until age 13, zipped through the Academy Northwest curriculum by age 16.

"I found the learning environment more enriching, more challenging," said Botter, who earned her associate's degree in liberal arts from Cumberland County College in 2004 at age 17. "I like to be creative and the work was very challenging."

From a very early age?she organized an around-the-world party for her tenth birthday, after all?Botter was interested in global issues, but from a sociologist's perspective.

"People think 'sociology' and then, immediately, 'social work,'" said Botter, who is president of Rowan's Sociology Club and has won every major award given by the department.

"Sociology combines the study of, 'What are people like?' with 'How do we make things better for people?' I've always been fascinated by people and cultures.

"In terms of work, I would like to pursue something along the lines of human rights or peace and conflict and, perhaps, even look at humanitarian aid."

A humanitarian herself, Botter was active at both Cumberland County College and Rowan, where she was the service coordinator for Mortar Board (the National College Senior Honor Society) and a member of Rebel U, an anti-tobacco club. She was inducted into Alpha Kappa Delta (the International Sociology Honor Society), the Golden Key International Honor Society, and Phi Beta Delta (the Honor Society for International Scholars).

Her research on the violent nationalism among Sri Lanka's Tamils took top honors in the sociology department's paper competition this spring.

"I was watching the coverage of ethnic conflicts and civil war after the Tsunami," Botter said. "So I researched the role nationalism played. I wanted to know, 'How did their love for their people turn into a desire to murder other people on the island?' I found that while the Tamils were oppressed, it was more important that they felt they had been oppressed."

Botter's interests go beyond sociology. She's a singer who volunteered her talents to lead sing-a-longs?"old-fashioned ditties," she calls them--at an assisted living facility in her hometown. She has performed in musical theater productions. And she's helped teach both ballet and clogging to children

"With clogging, you just need to jump out there with a big smile on your face," Botter said with a laugh.

Botter had just learned to drive when she was accepted at Rowan at age 17, but she quickly got used to her commute and also her classes, which she said have been eye-opening and exciting.

"I've had so many good classes," she said. "I'm hungry for knowledge. And I learn about myself every day. There are lots of things to learn every day, even from mundane things."