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College of Humanities & Sciences

School of World Studies

Ariel McGuire

February 5, 2019Alumna Ariel McGuire stands between Professors Waybright and Woods. [View Image]

In her Winter 2018 commencement speech, School of World Studies alumna Ariel McGuire joked that she didn’t pick Religious Studies, it picked her! McGuire graduated in 2014 with a Religious Studies degree after switching majors several times. Her decision was inspired by an elective class that made her feel she was “learning the heart of the world.”

McGuire has continued to to explore global cultures after graduating. Because she studied abroad in Ghana as an undergraduate, she was hired in 2017 by Global Leadership Adventures which offers international service-learning opportunities for high-schoolers. As a mentor for students in Ghana, she was paired with local staff member Fafali Nukunu.

After working together throughout that summer, the two partnered to create Mother’s Heritage, a nonprofit dedicated to helping girls from Lake Volta escape human trafficking. Mother’s Heritage provides rescue and refuge through community education, medical missions and vocational training.  

Since returning to Virginia from Ghana, McGuire works with both Mother’s Heritage and Global Leadership Adventures as well as pursue another passion she developed abroad: Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). [View Image]


Immediately after completing her degree, McGuire lived in Thailand for nine months where she picked up the martial art. It’s no surprise she’s continued to box after returning to the U.S. given she describes her first fight (in Thailand) as “the best night of [her] life!”

She is now an amateur fighter who is bridging her dedication to athleticism and global leadership; Mother’s Heritage will be the beneficiary of her next fight.

McGuire credits the School of World Studies with not only inspiring her passion for global cultures but also giving her the perspective to truly understand them. Her education “helped break barriers in [her] head” allowing her to truly appreciate “studying humanity.”


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