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2020-2021 Eberly Scholars: Sarah Ilhenfeld

In association with the ongoing generosity of the Eberly family, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board established the Eberly Scholars program in 1988. Each year, up to 25 students majoring in the arts and sciences are designated as Eberly Scholars. They are provided with scholarship support in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement. This award is the Eberly College’s most prestigious scholarship honor for undergraduate students. Meet all of this year's Eberly Scholars.

Sarah Ihlenfeld
Hometown: Wheeling, West Virginia
Majors: International Studies and Economics 

How did you choose your major(s)?

I entered WVU with a major in international studies because I have always been so interested in learning about people and places and how they interact. I believe that understanding the rest of the world is one of the most important things we can do as humans to create a loving and peaceful world.  

How would you explain your major to a new WVU student? What advice would you give them?

International studies is one of the most well-rounded majors that I have come across at WVU. You will learn about the rest of the world through many lenses – cultural, political, economic, historical and linguistic. I would advise a new international studies student to fully take advantage of all of the different courses, departments and professors that teach international studies students. There are few majors that are as immersed in different disciplines as international studies, and that is one of the greatest assets of the program.

How has your major prepared you for your future career?

Because the world is so globally interconnected, no matter what career path I follow, my international studies degree will make me a valuable asset for making international connections. My economics major also intersects with my international studies major in an important way. You cannot fully understand either international studies or economics without the other, which is why I really love studying the two subjects together.

Sarah Ihlenfeld with SGA campaign members

How have you changed since your first year at WVU?

When I first arrived at WVU, I was a lot less confident. But because of my professors, extracurricular activities and friends, I have grown so much. Thanks to my professors and the classes I've taken with them, I know that I love the field I am in and that I can do incredible things. WVU has provided a supportive environment for me to explore my interests and passions.  

What was your most memorable moment at WVU?

One of the reasons I love WVU so much is because of our unrivaled school spirit. I feel our school spirit the most at football games, especially when we played Texas in the fall. It was a huge rivalry game in front of a sold-out stadium. We didn't even win the game, but it's still one of my favorite memories because I felt so much love for WVU and the state of West Virginia. I felt so proud to be a Mountaineer.

Sarah Ihlenfeld at Model United Nations

What is the hardest Eberly College class that you loved so far? Why?

In the spring semester of my freshman year, the Department of Political Science offered a special topics class on international trade policy, which is one of my favorite topics within international studies. It fits right at the intersection between international studies and economics. I was a little nervous to take the class because I was just a freshman, and it was a 400-level course. I challenged myself to take the class because I knew that I would really love it, and I was right. It was a small class with a lot of discussion and a great professor, Dr. Christina Fattore, and it is still my favorite class I've taken at WVU to date.  

What do you want others to know about you that is not on your resume?

My senior year of high school was a really hard period of my life, and I came to WVU hopeful but still in a difficult place. Since being at WVU, I have grown so much more than I ever expected. I am happy and confident, with amazing new friends, mentors and experiences.

What makes you feel connected to WVU?

School spirit and the relationships I have built here connect me to WVU more than anything else. At athletic events, there is such a great school spirit that makes you feel the connection that all Mountaineers have and will have for the rest of their lives, even if they have never met before. It's magical, and I've never felt so connected to anything else in the way I feel connected to WVU. I also feel connected to WVU through my mentors and friends. I have found everyone at WVU to be very welcoming and down-to-earth, both professors and peers.

Sarah Ihlenfeld bowling with friends

Why would you recommend WVU to a sibling or friend?

Going to WVU has been the single best thing that has ever happened to me. Being a student here makes me so happy and proud. I am surrounded by fun, intelligent, humble, interesting people every day. My younger sister is graduating from high school this spring, and I convinced her to come to WVU, too. Now I just have to get my younger brother here!

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor here? What makes them special?

I have had a lot of great professors, but my favorite is probably Dr. Christina Fattore. Her international trade policy class confirmed to me that I was in the right place, studying the right thing. She has also been a mentor and an inspiration to me. She is so smart and knowledgeable but also down to earth, friendly and easy to talk to, and I could feel from my first day of class with her how much she cares about her students.

Describe the best thing that’s happened to you at WVU.

Since coming to WVU, I have discovered the things that are most important to me. In my classes, I have learned about systemic issues that create inequality throughout the world, and this has made clear to me that I want my career to focus on giving everyone an equal shot at living a happy and successful life, whatever that means to them. Through the relationships I have built here, I have learned how important it is to give and receive respect, understanding and love into the world. You will be remembered by the people who matter the most for how you made others feel. At WVU, I am surrounded by people who make me feel really happy, and I hope they would say the same about me.

What was your reaction when you heard you were selected as an Eberly Scholar? How has this opportunity made a difference in your life?

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences produces some of the most thoughtful, well-rounded Mountaineers, so I am honored to be part of such a great group of students. Being an Eberly Scholar will support me in exploring my research interests and representing WVU at conferences.