Key into Public Service Scholar pursues four majors with one goal: helping others

In a given day, senior Aylar Atadurdyyeva may inject fruit flies with fungi in the lab, then turn her attention to the interactive map of migrant-centered German cinema she’s creating as a Digital Humanities Fellow.

While the relationships may not be immediately apparent, Atadurdyyeva can visualize their interconnectedness. “I can almost see a map with little red twine that connects them,” she says.

The lines of Atadurdyyeva’s personal map stretch oceans and continents. Originally from Turkmenistan, Atadurdyyeva transferred to the University of Kansas in 2019 from a community college in Seattle.

“It’s been a great transition,” she says. “Being at an R1 university with so much happening both in terms of research and teaching, and just so many opportunities, has been truly thrilling.”

Atadurdyyeva has made the most of those opportunities, pursuing four majors — global & international studies, microbiology, political science, and Slavic languages & literatures — along with two minors, German studies and psychology, and three certificates at KU.

Atadurdyyeva’s efforts have gained her recognition — her “Essays of a Turkmen” earned her an honorable mention for the Richard W. Judy Scholars Award  — and linked her to honors program alumni like Amanda Shriwise, a policy consultant with the World Health Organization who invited Atadurdyyeva to work with WHO research data.

“Honors has helped me build a huge network that I will be probably benefiting from for a long, long time,” Atadurdyyeva says.

Out of these experiences, Atadurdyyeva has found herself most drawn to public health, crediting Shriwise and Honors Faculty Fellow Katie Rhine for helping point her in that direction.

That pull to help others led Atadurdyyeva to the Phi Beta Kappa Key into Public Service scholarship program, for which she was selected from nearly 900 applicants. As part of the program, this year’s 20 scholars convened in late June for an event focused on “pathways into active citizenship.”

“It was a great conference,” says Atadurdyyeva. “Seeing that there are other students who are so dedicated to bettering the societies that they are parts of was just good for my mental health.”

Atadurdyyeva was also selected to represent KU as a Rhodes Scholarship candidate. She cites her peers and program graduates as motivation.

“Being able to see that there were honors students who already laid that road for me and just following in their footsteps has been very helpful.”

After graduation, Atadurdyyeva plans to take a year to evaluate her next steps, which may include post-graduate studies, intergovernmental work, and a return to academia as a professor.

“The ultimate goal,” she says, “is just do as much good as possible while utilizing all the diverse skill sets that I’ve gained over the past four years.”