‘Voyager’ Visionary Focuses on the Horizon

Lee Nah ’25 has been awarded the coveted Voyager Scholarship, created by the Obamas and the cofounder of Airbnb to promote meaningful change by young leaders.


Lee Nah ’25 has a lot going on this year. Between the requirements of her triple major — psychology, women’s and gender studies and studio art — and her role as program director for college radio station WKCO and coordinator of multiple mentorship programs, she figured there just wasn’t time for her to study abroad.

A prestigious scholarship from the Obamas and the cofounder of Airbnb could change all that, though.

As the recipient of the Voyager Scholarship, Nah will receive $10,000 and free Airbnb housing to develop a summer travel experience focused on public service. That’s in addition to up to $50,000 total to help cover her college expenses over the next two years.

“It’s definitely a life-changing opportunity,” Nah said. “It’s been a wonderful chance to dream big about how I think about public service and the kind of work that I want to pursue.”

Nah is one of 100 “Voyagers” who represent 33 states and territories and about 75 colleges and universities. Created by former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama and Brian Chesky, cofounder and CEO of Airbnb, the scholarship aims to support young leaders who will bridge divides and take on world challenges. 

The two-year program for rising juniors, funded by a $100 million personal contribution from Chesky to the Obama Foundation, hinges on the belief that exposure to new places can generate understanding, empathy and cooperation that will lead to change. As part of the program, Voyagers gain access to a network of leaders and are invited to an annual fall summit.

In announcing the second cohort of Voyagers last week, the former president said: “Their dedication to public service and their determination to solve global challenges inspire hope for a brighter future. We know that this scholarship will not only change their lives, but the world.”

Nah said she’s not sure yet what her summer experience will look like — it could end up involving international travel or a series of domestic stops — but she knows she wants it to involve multiple fields. By working at the intersection of healthcare access, public safety reform, and the arts, Nah wants to create informed and innovative entry points for receiving arts-based healthcare.

No doubt her project will be influenced by her recent work in her hometown of Chicago. Nah previously served on the Mayor’s Youth Commission, where she collaborated with city leaders to propose and implement solutions to advance mental health equity and Chicago Police Department reform.

For the past two summers, Nah has interned for the Chicago Department of Public Health to expand the Trauma-Informed Centers of Care network, a city-wide clinical network of community organizations that provide trauma-informed behavioral health services. Part of her work also involved integrating the arts with healthcare access. 

Nah received guidance from Kenyon Associate Professor of Psychology Margaret Stevenson for her main summer project in Chicago through the John W. Adams Summer Scholars Program in Socio-Legal Studies. At her internship, she developed a meeting with community partners in Chicago’s youth intervention system to connect youth to trauma-informed mental healthcare services. 

A member of the Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP) to empower underrepresented students, Nah is a Korean-American, first-generation college student. She works with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as coordinator of the peer mentoring program known as REACH (Recognizing Each Other’s Ability to Conquer the Hill).

“I coordinate the peer mentoring program between underclassmen and upperclassmen students who are underrepresented at the school,” Nah said. “So that’s a big piece of my Kenyon journey.”

She also coordinates the Kenyon Mentors Program through the Office for Community Partnerships, which connects students to Knox County schools for mentoring.

A music lover, Nah has her own radio show on WKCO and is an associate with the The Gund as well.

“She’s just got so much going on. … Her commitment and her energy and her accomplishments are all so amazing,” Thomas Hawks, dean of academic advising and support, said. “I just found her to be one of the most impressive students that we have here at Kenyon.”

This particular scholarship is noteworthy in how it doesn’t just focus on funding but comes with the intention of connecting young leaders with organizations, senior leaders and each other to move forward for public service.

“We prepare students for a life of purpose, and I really do feel like a scholarship like the Voyager connects to that idea,” Hawks said. 

Nah’s sister, Iggy, graduated from Kenyon last year, and she said her family has been a strong influence in her desire to help others. This includes her mother, who works at the Chicago Public Library, and her grandparents, who dedicated their lives to helping raise Nah and her sister.

“That especially shaped my understanding of public service, or service in general — service for those who you love and who you care about — and what it means to care for others in such a literal way,” she said.

Nah expects graduate school to be on the horizon, perhaps focusing on mental health, clinical practice or counseling. But somehow it will be integrated with art, which for her has recently been focused on oil painting.

“I’m interested in so many things, and I think that’s what I love about what I’ve been able to study at Kenyon,” she said. “I’ve met so many wonderful mentors at the school, and I’ve really been able to shape my academic life in this unimaginable way. … I love learning and I love being in this setting.”

“As I look toward a future in public service, the Voyager Scholarship will mobilize my vision by connecting me to a network of peers and leaders,” she said. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity and beyond excited to continue this work with an emphasis on integrating the arts into health strategies to foster holistic recovery.”