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Lockerbie Scholar Erin McLaughlin ’07 Granted Green Card
In 2007, Erin McLaughlin became the first Lockerbie Scholar to earn an undergraduate degree from Syracuse University. Typically, these outstanding scholars from Lockerbie, Scotland, study in Syracuse for only a year, representing the 11 Lockerbie residents who died in the Pan Am 103 disaster. McLaughlin quickly realized that one year in Syracuse would not be long enough. Now, nearly a decade after graduating from Syracuse University with a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, McLaughlin has been granted permanent residency to the United States.
Q: When you came to Syracuse University as a Lockerbie Scholar, did you imagine calling the United States your permanent home?
A: I came into the Syracuse/Lockerbie scholarship knowing and planning for a one-year experience. I was only 17 and was looking at it as a gap year before going back to Scotland to start at the University of Glasgow. However, by October of my freshman year, I couldn’t imagine not spending the next four years of my life at Syracuse University.
I worked very hard with Judy O’Rourke [Syracuse University staff member and the Syracuse facilitator of the Lockerbie Scholarships] to find ways to be the first Lockerbie Scholar to stay on and graduate from Syracuse University. By becoming a resident advisor, earning a merit scholarship from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs, and receiving support from my selfless parents, I was able to continue on. Being chosen as a Remembrance Scholar during my senior year was very special and really brought my time at Syracuse full circle.
Recently, my parents sent me a picture of a letter I wrote to myself when I was 8 years old after a vacation to the United States. In the letter, I wrote about wanting to live in America and visiting New York. I had no recollection of writing it, but it appears that when you put something out in the universe, you can make it happen!
Q: When you look back on it, what has your Syracuse University experience meant to you?
A: Syracuse University and the connections I made there were life-changing. I grew immeasurably in confidence and independence, and I have made lifelong connections. The connection I had with faculty and staff allowed me to try a lot of new things. Being president of a student club (Association for Student-Elderly Connection), acting in a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the drama department, and researching and writing an honors thesis are just a sample of the opportunities I had available to me and I am forever grateful.
Q: How did Syracuse University change your life or help you get to where you are today?
A: As a resident advisor, I was exposed to the career field of higher education administration. After Syracuse University, I went on to pursue a master’s degree at New York University. Mentors, such as Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, Judy O’Rourke, Professor Chris Kyle and Kathleen MacLachlan NP, showed me the ways the University is set up to support and encourage the growth of every individual student—whether socially, academically or personally. This really propelled me into the field of student affairs, where I now work in Career Services at Fordham University under the leadership of Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Jeffrey Gray G’81. With his support, I was able to get sponsored for my permanent residency for my work in student affairs. I hope that through my work and community involvement, I can support, engage and lead those that I come into contact with.
Q: What’s your favorite memory of your time at Syracuse University?
A: This is an impossible question! I have so many. From living off-campus senior year with my best friends to being the mentor resident advisor for the Skyhalls during their inaugural year housing first-year students, I definitely had plenty of laughs.
One of the most poignant memories was Remembrance Week during my senior year. I worked with my fellow scholars to plan the rose-laying ceremony and to create the “Celebration of Remembrance.” I was chosen to represent the group and to speak at the service at Hendricks Chapel. I am always honored to represent Lockerbie and Scotland and doing so as a Remembrance Scholar gave me an even deeper connection to the Syracuse University students who lost their lives.
Q: As an alumna in the New York City region, how have you enjoyed connecting with other alumni in the area?
A: The great thing about Syracuse University is that everywhere you go, you can connect with new alumni. I was recently in San Francisco and went to the SU vs. Georgetown game watching party that was organized by the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Northern California Alumni group. It was wonderful to reconnect with friends but also to meet and learn about the great things that Syracuse alumni are doing nationwide.
I have also been involved with the Syracuse University Mentor/Mentee Alliance program and the Generation Orange Leadership program through Lubin House in New York City. Syracuse University changed my life and so for me it is incredibly important to maintain and increase my Syracuse network.