Cultivating Leaders

Meet Elena

A Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development scholarship through the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement allowed Elena Bauer to pursue her passion for studying youth leadership and workforce readiness.

“My scholarships have provided me an opportunity to serve communities in Mississippi while working towards my degrees in business management and law.” – Elena Bauer, CEED scholar and law student

I am originally from Freiburg, Germany. I moved from Germany to Mississippi in 2013. Growing up, I spent part of every year in the U.S. and part of every year in Germany. Ultimately, I began researching where I’d like to go to college in both countries. When I started my college search it initially seemed like a no brainer to my parents that I should attend college in Europe – it’s free! But the European system isn’t conducive to an undecided undergraduate major, and so I set my sights on American universities. I decided to take a gap year before starting school. During my gap year I decided to work with Habitat for Humanity and Teach for America and ended up in the small Delta town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. I had never been anywhere like it, but I fell in love with the work, the people, and the town. After my year was up, I decided to attend Ole Miss so I could continue to work in Clarksdale.

During my time at Ole Miss I received a Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) scholarship through the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. It covered my tuition. Being a CEED scholar allowed me to tailor my studies to the work I was engaged in in Clarksdale. My scholarship helps me pursue my passion for youth leadership and workforce readiness in the state. Through CEED and because of my interest in youth leadership, I was given an opportunity to lead the McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership Program (MELP), a high school youth statewide initiative. The purpose of MELP is to expose students to resources and opportunities at Ole Miss and across the state, and to consider the realities of developing sustainable solutions to problems in their communities.

I took a group of students through a virtual reality experience across various countries in the world. The virtual reality lab we visited is stationed in Clarksdale! The idea behind including the virtual reality experience in MELP was to provide an opportunity for students from underserved communities to explore the world. I hoped that an experience outside of Mississippi could provide a fresh perspective for students that had never been outside of the state. Being the product of world travels and being a first generation biracial and bilingual American, I have accumulated a variety of different experiences which allow me to consider issues from a variety of different viewpoints. I believe that providing a similar opportunity for other students to do the same can help cultivate innovative ideas to develop solutions to the issues we are all trying to address in Mississippi. I hoped the experience could inspire students beyond their lived environments.

In conjunction with my CEED scholarship, I also received a tuition scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi School of Law through a graduate assistantship with Ole Miss Athletics. The extent to which I can succeed in representing my clients depends on how I can understand the larger picture of their situation. My work with student athletes with learning disabilities fits seamlessly into my legal studies. How? I have to identify the needs of my caseload of student athletes, construct a plan of action, and then develop learning outcomes, and articulate the class material to student athletes in a way that they could understand.

I have also discovered that the practice of law is a tremendous platform for community development. I believe that law is a great vehicle for helping individuals and communities across the state. My scholarships have provided me an opportunity to serve communities in Mississippi while working towards my bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in Mathematics, and law degree.

I have no idea what my Mississippi story will include next, but I’m excited to see what the future holds