Sesock, Soltis Earn Vira I. Heinz Scholarships for Global Leadership


posted March 23, 2018

Pitt-Johnstown students Halee Sesock (left) and Kayla Soltis have been named the recipients of the 2018 Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Women in Global Leadership and will study in Sicily and Bolivia, respectively, this summer. (Photo by Kayla Carr)

Two University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students, Halee Sesock and Kayla Soltis, have been named the recipients of the 2018 Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Women in Global Leadership.

Halee Sesock will study in Sicily this summer with courses focused on masterpieces of Greek and Roman literature as well as Greek archaeology.

Sesock intends to graduate with a double-major in geography and environmental studies, with minors in art history, biology, and history, and a certificate in GIS.

“I hope to use all of this to pursue a career in the field of archaeology,” she said. “In addition to gaining valuable professional experience, the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership is also providing me with the opportunity to develop and improve my global perspective – which is something that would be much more difficult to do without the Vira Heinz Scholarship.”

The ability to study abroad via the scholarship will enhance her education.

“If you think you want to study abroad, and you've never traveled outside the U.S., then applying to potentially be awarded the Vira Heinz Scholarship is one of the best decisions you can make,” she said.

The graduate of United High School in Armagh, PA, is the daughter of Susan and Michael Sesock. She has a brother Joshua and a niece Kylee.

Kayla Soltis will study in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for six weeks beginning in May. The psychology major is a pre-occupational therapy student. “I hope to go to graduate school for occupational therapy and intend to work with children,” she said.

She said the key to earning the scholarship is planning early and that the process is worth it.

“I am very thankful that I received the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship. I now have the opportunity to experience diversity beyond the United States. I have never been out of the country before, and this particular scholarship program will provide me with the skills necessary to maximize my learnings abroad. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to challenge my global perspective and to be able to participate in leadership development retreats.”

The Mars Area High School graduate is the daughter of Mary and John Soltis. Kayla has three sisters: Audra, Laura, and Sophia. 

The goal of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership (VIH) Program is to “Prepare women leaders for tomorrow’s global challenges,” according to

The VIH mission is to develop and encourage a passion for life-long learning and civic engagement. The VIH Program prepares women for tomorrow’s global challenges by offering a unique opportunity for international experiences, leadership development and community service.

Universities and colleges across Pennsylvania participate in the VIH Program. Young women from each institution are admitted into the program and receive a scholarship of at least $5,000 to put toward the cost of an international experience of their choosing.

The VIH Program has three principal components: the international experience; weekend-long, intensive leadership development retreats; and the Community Engagement Experience.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.