Human Sexuality Studies Enrolls Two Fulbright Scholars

This semester, Widener welcomed two Fulbright Scholars to campus: Onika Henry and Lorena Olvera. Both Henry and Olvera ranked Widener at the top of their list once accepted into the competitive international exchange program. They had done their research and both concluded that the premiere place to study human sexuality was Widener’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies.

Henry was accepted into the Center’s M.Ed. program and Olvera into the Ph.D. program. They both began their education at Widener this fall and settled into a place just off campus in Chester, where they live as roommates and occasional study partners. Both women hope that their Widener education prepares them to tackle various human sexuality issues in their native countries.onika henry

Henry, who hails from the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, held the position of information, education, and communications officer at the HIV and AIDS Secretariat on Tobago before coming to Widener. In this role, she delivered information to the general public about HIV and AIDS and related issues. She said that with very limited prior experience in this field, she received “on-the-job training,” but quickly realized that a focused degree in human sexuality education would make her more effective.

“Research shows that most people have the knowledge; they know about the dangers of certain behaviors, but yet they still engage in those behaviors. Why?” Henry asked. “By studying various facets of human sexuality, I can start to understand ‘why.’ One individual may be motivated to act based on a perception that ‘I’m not at risk,’ while another may be guided by feelings of trust and love.”

Henry hopes to one day return to her country as an entrepreneur who develops online educational programs aimed at curbing harmful behaviors, a consultant who works with schools to develop human sexuality curriculum, an educator at the university level, or perhaps all three. With a background in theatre arts and psychology, Henry is a strong proponent of Theatre for Development (TfD) and will actively use theatre as a tool for social change.

Olvera, who comes to Widener from Puebla, Mexico, hopes to tackle sexuality education in schools after she olveracompletes her degree program. “I think that I can have a greater impact on the community if I reach students through their teachers and parents,” she said. She would like to develop and promote educational programs that tackle primary prevention and create a center for education of parents and teachers. In addition, she’d also like to have a voice in government discussions about countrywide standards for sexuality education in schools and be able to institute nationwide programs.

“There is a substantial lack of proper sex education in my country, and as a result, teen pregnancy and STI rates are high,” she said. “I believe sexuality education is part of the solution to effectively address these issues.”

Olvera also hopes to continue engaging the general public in sexuality-related issues through the media. Prior to becoming a fulltime Ph.D. student, she hosted a radio show and an Internet program called Sexprésate about sexuality, which today has about 1,400 followers throughout Mexico.