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Inspiring an amazing academic journey

Claire Gummo and Stefanie vo Hlatky
Rhodes Scholar Claire Gummo (Artsci’17) nominated Stéfanie von Hlatky, her former professor in the Department of Political Studies for the Rhodes Inspirational Educator Award. (Supplied Photos) 

When Claire Gummo (Artsci’17) arrived at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 2017 it was a dream come true.

Along her academic journey there was a lot of hard work and dedication and as well as support, including from Stéfanie von Hlatky, an associate professor of political studies at Queen’s University and the former director of the Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP).

Two years later, remembering her invaluable encouragement and mentorship during her time at Queen’s as an undergraduate student, Gummo nominated Dr. von Hlatky for the Rhodes Inspirational Educator Award. Recently, it was announced that the Rhodes Trust agreed with Gummo.

Making the decision to nominate her former professor was easy, Gummo says. She knows that she wouldn’t have become a Rhodes Scholar without Dr. von Hlatky’s guidance and support.

“Dr. von Hlatky was my biggest advocate in the Rhodes Scholarship selection process. Beyond writing a recommendation letter in support of my application, she ran practice interviews with me, provided encouragement at key moments when I doubted myself, and helped me to select my program at Oxford once I learned I had received the scholarship,” she says. “For me, this piece around encouragement was most crucial. I have, like many young women, a tendency to doubt my own abilities, making something like the Rhodes Scholarship feel like an impossible dream. Dr. von Hlatky pushed me to embrace opportunities and be confident about my own potential and intellect. She did this not just in her words but also by acting as a role model, providing a clear example of what professional excellence and strength look like.” 

Dr. von Hlatky says that while Gummo is strong academically, what set her apart during her time at Queen’s was her level of engagement on campus and her commitment to helping other students, particularly her work and advocacy on sexual violence prevention.

As a professor, Dr. von Hlatky aims to convey her passion to her students when teaching or discussing her research. Receiving this award, she says, has provided an opportunity to think about how to teach with purpose moving forward with an increasingly diverse student body in mind. 

“As professors, we teach and provide training to students but at Queen’s, there are fantastic opportunities for genuine mentorship relationships to emerge,” Dr. von Hlatky says. “This is the case not only because our students are very active in student clubs and continuously involve their professors, but also thanks to programs like Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF). For me, involving undergraduate and graduate students in my research projects has been a great way to provide mentorship that goes beyond the classroom.”

Not only has Dr. von Hlatky been a mentor for Gummo but she’s also a role model. Dr. von Hlatky is as equally talented a researcher as she is an educator, Gummo says, with compelling work on topics including gender mainstreaming, contemporary security trends especially within NATO, and military cooperation, that has shaped her own academic thinking in critical ways. 

“I am struck and inspired by the way Dr. von Hlatky’s confidence and intelligence never fails to command the respect and admiration of her colleagues – both military and civilian,” Gummo wrote in her nomination letter. “In this way, she has acted as a crucial role model for me in my own life, shaping my approach to professional and academic endeavours. However, what truly sets Dr. von Hlatky apart is that this boldness is matched with a remarkable generosity of spirit. She goes above and beyond to mentor her students, especially young women, even founding Women in International Security Canada, which has provided support to more than 600 young academics. Taken together, these two disparate yet complementary elements of her character – boldness and generosity – have greatly inspired me, as they have every student who is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from, and with, her.”

Gummo was named Queen’s University’s 57th Rhodes Scholar in 2017. At Oxford she completed a one-year master’s in Global Governance and Diplomacy, followed by a second one-year master’s in Public Policy, where she specialized in gender mainstreaming and practical feminist ethics.

Each year 11 Canadians are selected for Rhodes Scholarships, the most prestigious academic awards in the world. Created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes, the scholarships cover all costs for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford. The scholarships are awarded to students on the basis of high academic achievement and personal integrity, who are also expected to emerge as “leaders for the world’s future.”

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Queen’s is deeply engaged internationally with strong academic and research ties around the globe including the university’s Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in the United Kingdom, that offers high-quality programs in humanities, social sciences, business and law. Queen’s has more than 220 student exchange partners in more than 40 countries and numerous education abroad experiences available.