Amid a national emergency and newly issued Global Level 4 Health Advisory, we want to update our college partners, prospective candidates, as well as the Luce Scholars community on our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luce Scholars’ health and safety remain our number one priority. From the outset, the Luce Scholars Program has opted to work with each Luce Scholar individually, encouraging anyone who doesn't feel safe in their host country to return to the U.S. or offering to relocate them to another country within the region, with Luce Foundation support. We have shared important primary sources of information with our Scholars and held individual conversations to help them make as informed decisions as possible during this challenging and uncertain period. However, we have always trusted each Scholar to make a responsible, independent decision (in consultation with their family) that makes the most sense in their individual case, whether staying in Asia to complete their Luce year or returning to the United States.
A Luce year is challenging in the best of circumstances, a built-in feature of the program, by design. A new Luce Scholar is presumed not to know much about their host country; personal, professional, cultural, and linguistic challenges abound, at least initially. Overcoming them, with grit and grace, is what defines a transformative Luce experience. This inspiring narrative—“embracing the discomfort”—of course, does not take into account the disruptive and potentially dangerous nature of the COVID-19 outbreaks. We acknowledge the unease and trepidation our Scholars may be feeling, and have worked hard to address their concerns and facilitate their continuing personal and professional growth.
We take the threat of coronavirus very seriously and are monitoring the fast-changing situation closely. To give our current Luce Scholars in Asia “permission”—and indeed strong encouragement—to return to the United States, we have offered to continue monthly stipend payments to any returning Scholar until July 2020, when their Luce year would normally end, along with additional financial and other types of assistance to facilitate their transition back to the United States; these resources include continuing confidential mental health support. For those Scholars who have decided to remain in Asia, we have reaffirmed our commitment to providing them with flexible, creative, and personalized support.
Meanwhile, the newly selected Luce Scholars—an incredibly talented group—are in the process of thinking about their Luce year placements. We have no plans to cancel their Luce year. Depending on the evolving situation in the U.S. and in Asia, program activities might have to be adjusted, and individual placement opportunities might be impacted. But to the extent that the new Scholars are eager to do so, we will find a way for them to embark on the transformative journeys in Asia that the current and past Scholars have all had.
Thank you for your support of the Luce Scholars Program, with all best wishes for your good health!