By Cole Hatcher

Three Ohio Wesleyan University students have earned competitive Baran Fellowships this spring to fund projects intended to make them stronger candidates for graduate school admission and post-graduate fellowships.

Blake Johnson ’24
Ireland Nowak ’24
Karli Walsh ’24

The newest recipients of the university-awarded Baran Fellowships are juniors Blake Johnson of Centerburg, Ohio; Ireland Nowak of Thousand Oaks, California; and Karli Walsh of Massillon, Ohio. Their Baran-supported projects are as follows:

Johnson plans to study abroad in spring 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. He will participate in the Kent State Geneva program in support of his career goal of becoming a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“For me, one of the most pressing issues faced by the international community is genocide and the geopolitical questions that come with it,” said Johnson, who is pursuing a major in Politics and Government with a concentration in Public Diplomacy and double minors in Communication and International Studies.

“For instance,” Johnson said, “does a country have a right to intervene in another country’s affairs if there are legitimate genocide accusations against the latter? Does this legitimacy increase when more countries agree on the need to intervene?”

After he graduates from Ohio Wesleyan, Johnson plans to apply to the Master in Public Affairs program at Princeton University.

Nowak, a future veterinarian, will use her award to support an independent research project comparing the gut microbiome of purebred French bulldogs from home-dwelling and mill-bred environments.

“This study is important to veterinary science because canines are an important part of many human homes,” said Nowak, who is pursuing a triple major in Pre-Professional ZoologyPre-Professional Medicine, and Biochemistry and a double minor in Spanish and Chemistry.

“They are known to impact the gut microbiome of their human companions; therefore, it is of interest from a human medical perspective to identify any disruptions to this microflora,” Nowak said, explaining that fecal samples from healthy dogs will be used to collect the data.

After earning her Ohio Wesleyan diploma, Nowak plans to attend veterinary school and will apply to locations including the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University, which features a graduate business minor for its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students.

Walsh will use her Baran funds to attend the Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy, a highly competitive program designed to prepare undergraduates for graduate school by providing insights into the coursework and application process. This year’s seminar director is David Boonin, Ph.D., who has studied the philosophy of death and recently published the book “Dead Wrong: The Ethics of Posthumous Harm.”

“He is a professional in the field that specializes in the same types of questions that I am currently exploring in a philosophical paper that I have been working on since last year,” said Walsh, a double major in Philosophy and Politics and Government.

“The paper focuses on the views that the philosopher Thomas Nagel has toward death and the meaning of life,” said Walsh, who plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Philosophy and ultimately become a professor. “To my knowledge, no one has attempted to answer the philosophical question at the heart of this paper, and it would be extremely beneficial to be able to work directly with someone who has insight into the question I seek to answer.”

Once Walsh’s paper is complete, she hopes to submit it for publication in an undergraduate journal of philosophy and use it to inform her graduate school writing samples and fellowship applications.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Baran Fellowships were created in 2013 with a gift from graduate Jan W. Baran, Class of 1970, and his wife, Kathryn K. Baran, in recognition of the strong mentorship he received as an OWU student.

To be eligible for the fellowships, students must be in the university Honors Program or have an excellent academic record (usually a grade-point average of 3.7 or higher) with a high probability of success in a post-graduate fellowship competition. Recipients are able to use the funding to support travel-learning opportunities or individualized research or study connecting theory to practice.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Baran Fellowships at and more about the university’s Leland F. and Helen Schubert Honors Program at

Photo by Paul Vernon

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