Felicia Rowe graduated from Bellarmine in 2005 hoping to find a career where she could combine both of her passions: traveling the world and helping others. She landed in the ideal job in February 2013 when she joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, where as assistant director of the Lay Mission Volunteer Program, she organizes and leads mission trips both domestically and internationally.
“In my current position I am fortunate enough to get paid to do what I would do for free,” she said.
Most recently, she traveled to Belize City in January, where she joined Sisters who live there to help the citizens. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, headquartered in Nazareth, Ky., also has stations in countries such as Botswana, India and Nepal.
During Ms. Rowe’s one-month stay, she helped build homes and assisted with various ministries. She has also lent a helping hand in India and in U.S. cities including Louisville, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City. Altogether, her travels have taken her to every continent except Antarctica.
“When you travel (for any reason) it’s best to leave your expectations behind,” Ms. Rowe said. “When you accept what is and are truly open to the present moment, you can really immerse yourself and grow as an individual.”
While she said that each trip she’s taken has had its own significance, “India was particularly life-changing for me as a young female.” As a Caucasian American, it was impossible to blend in. “I wasn’t used to being seen as a minority, and the experience changed me. Fortunately, I didn’t run into any trouble during my time there, but I saw myself through the eyes of another culture where women aren’t afforded the same basic rights and freedom that we take for granted at home,” she said.
Ms. Rowe has also worked at Gilda’s Club Worldwide in New York City and in the Research Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she managed an industry-university cooperative research center funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
“We get so caught up in our own life situations and the everyday tedium it demands that we lose our global perspective. When you travel and meet others you are able to get out of your comfort zone, which allows you to learn more about yourself,” she said.
Ms. Rowe’s drive to help others dates to her college days, when she volunteered at Red Cross blood drives and assisted Project Sunshine, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational and social programs to more than 100,000 children with medical challenges and their families.
A native of Bardstown, Ky., she graduated from Bethlehem High School. Her commitment both at school and in her community led to her winning the Mary Agnes Dugan Clayton Scholarship, a four-year, all-inclusive scholarship to Bellarmine funded by Joe Paul Clayton, a Bellarmine graduate and trustee who advocates quality Catholic education, in honor of his mother. Mr. Clayton, chief executive officer and president of Dish Network Corp. and former CEO, president and chairman of Sirius XM Radio, grants one such scholarship each year. Recipients must maintain high grades, participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer to improve the community.
The Clayton Scholarship “solidified my decision to attend Bellarmine and gave me the opportunity to receive a Catholic, liberal-arts education that helped prepare me for my future endeavors,” Ms. Rowe said. “He provided extraordinary examples of a solid work ethic and generosity and in doing so made it possible for me to learn more about myself as a person while enabling me to capitalize on my international interests.”
During Ms. Rowe’s four years at Bellarmine, her capacity for compassion deepened, as did her thirst for seeing the world and confronting its problems. She studied abroad three times: studying history for a month in Ireland during her sophomore year, tropical marine biology in the Bahamas the following summer, and history, literature and art history in the Netherlands for an entire semester her senior year. She was an active member of the Student Government Association, the International Club, the Biology Club and the Catholic Students Association. She also served on Volunteer Day each year at the university.
After graduating with a liberal-arts major and biology minor, Ms. Rowe earned a master’s degree in public health from Benedictine University outside Chicago and studied for a year at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.
She is set to embark on another journey next month, this time to Botswana, where she will assist in an HIV/AIDS clinic and work with the children in a local preschool. Her mission, she says, is to make the world a better place by improving public health. “My passion has already taken me far and wide, but the journey is far from complete.”
Dakota Branham | email@example.com
Dakota Branham is a senior from Louisville who will graduate next month with a bachelor of arts in communication and psychology with a human services emphasis.