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Looking Through a Wider Lens


Hannah Fernando

Hannah Fernando, Class of 2017, feels that her story has always been linked to her background in cooking. With a mother from Cairo, Egypt and a father from Colombo, Sri Lanka, Hannah’s worldview was developed through an international lens. “My mom and dad’s cooking was a medium I used to understand the world. It was my way to connect with people.”

This upbringing went into developing what Hannah chose to study at Grand Valley. As a freshman, Hannah declared an International Business major. After her first year, though, she chose to follow her heart towards Liberal Studies with a focus in Sustainable Food Systems and a minor in Environmental Studies. Joining the Cook Leadership Academy was a huge part of that decision. “My mentors and professors on campus really helped me to see that college is about building a toolbox and developing who you are as a person in your areas of strength, and that’s what makes you job ready.”

In her new major, she knew that completing multiple internships and studying overseas were both really important to her. But she couldn’t do it alone. Hannah received generous support from multiple scholarships that gave her the opportunity to grow in her areas of strength.

Hannah received the Ruth Chamberlain Global issues Endowed Scholarship as a sophomore and the Bretzlaff Foundation Scholarship the next year. Both scholarships felt very personal to Hannah because they focused on her story and the difference she wanted to make in the world. “Both of the scholarship gave me support to dive deeper into community volunteering, internships, work events, and have led me to connections and things I don’t think I could have made otherwise.”

Hannah feels that her career post-graduation will be stronger because of the diversity of experiences she was able to obtain through the support of her scholarships. “Receiving these scholarships has mentally, emotionally, and academically encouraged me to do my best in school and keep offering my skill set back to the community. The scholarships are absolutely transforming how I can move forward from my college career. A simple thank you isn’t enough.”

Because of the support she received through the gift of her scholarships, Hannah is able to live deeply in her passion and impact her community. You can encourage other students to follow in Hannah’s footsteps by supporting a scholarship in your area of passion here.

“I want my Laker Effect to be digging deeper in the world and continuing to learn through a lens of leadership, visionary thinking, diversity, and inclusion and equity, which is really what Grand Valley is prioritizing as an institution.”