June 04, 2020

Serena standing for a photoSerena Viti, a recent honors graduate in international economics and finance with a certificate in European studies, has been awarded a Fulbright fellowship to conduct research in Mauritius, a country in East Africa, in January 2021.

“Receiving this award is an honor, and it means a great deal to me because I will have the opportunity to serve both my country as an ambassador and the women of Mauritius through my research,” said Viti. “As an American, a woman, a Catholic, and an economist, this fellowship unites some of the foundational aspects of my identity, and will allow me to dive passionately into research on women's economic empowerment that is incredibly fascinating and very impactful.”

Viti’s research project titled, "Mauritian Social Impact Investment: Empowering Women through Economic Participation," aims to empower women in Mauritius through Social Impact Investment (SII) in order to increase female participation rates in the labor market. Her research will be conducted with the support of the University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM). 

She will be serving as a volunteer on the Women's Economic Empowerment Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Mauritius.

She chose to research in Mauritius due to its developing economy, economic growth, and potential for trade cooperation. “Mauritius has the foundations for expanding social impact investment, but has limited research on the topic,” Viti says. “I will have the opportunity to work directly with a leading scholar in the field and lecturer at UTM, Dr. Diroubinee Mauree-Narrainen, whose experience will be invaluable.”

Viti explained that her research has the potential to have a direct positive impact because of the small-scale of the government and economy, which has been actively working on women's economic empowerment reform. She will investigate efforts to provide capital to the hospitality, education, and service sectors. “The rich and diverse culture of Mauritius intrigued me, as well as their strong Catholic community,” she said. 

“Serena’s research seeks to use social impact investing to empower women entrepreneurs in Mauritius,” says Jennifer Paxton, clinical assistant professor of history and director of the Honors Program. “Her campus Fulbright interview committee was extremely impressed with how well-planned her project was. This comes as no surprise, since Serena's track record at Catholic has been stellar.” 

Women's economic empowerment holds close personal significance for Viti. A child of Italian immigrants, she is one of the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. 

“The insight, dedication, and persistent work ethic of my family has always inspired me, particularly that of my grandmothers,” Viti says. “They both didn't finish grade school, and honestly, could barely write, but would often dream with me of what could have been if they had the opportunity to learn, teach, and work. My grandmothers nurtured me and sacrificed in many ways so that I would have the opportunity of an education, and the economic empowerment that comes along with it for women in the United States. For their sacrifices I am sincerely grateful, as I carry these memories with me into my research.” 

Typically Fulbright fellowships take place during the academic year; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Level 4 travel ban, Viti will start her research in January 2021 (pending). 

The Fulbright Scholar Program, administered by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State, is an international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

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