This is an archived article.

May 11, 2006

UW students to explore far reaches of the globe, thanks to unusual Bonderman fellowship

Ten UW students recently received word that they’ve been awarded a Bonderman Travel Fellowship. Students traveling with this $20,000 fellowship set off on solo journeys that are at least eight months long and take them to at least six countries and two major regions of the world. While traveling, students may not pursue academic study, projects, or research.


Established in 1995, this fellowship aims to expose students to the intrinsic, often life-changing, benefits of international travel. UW graduate students, undergraduate students in the Honors Program and in UW Tacoma’s Global Honors Program are eligible for the award. This year, more than 150 graduate students and nearly 90 undergraduate students applied.


The 2006 Bonderman Fellows will travel to countries ranging from Brazil to Turkey, Guinea Bissau To Ecuador, Their interests include traveling to countries once colonized by the Portuguese while learning from people serving orphaned children; walking as much of the journey as possible; learning about the personal identity of people around the world; learning about the ritual of childbirth in different countries; and more.


“The Bonderman Travel Fellowships are truly unique,” says Shawn Wong, Honors Program director. “They inspire students to imagine their place in the world, to go to those places, and to come home and re-imagine their now-altered place in the world. The University of Washington is fortunate to have a fellowship with no boundaries and students who have the inspiration to imagine the world without limits.”


Unlike most other fellowships, which fund students to travel for international study, the Bonderman Fellowship aims to expose students to the intrinsic benefits of travel itself. Since 1995, 108 UW students — 81 undergraduate and 29 graduate students — have been named Bonderman Fellows (numbers include students selected in 2006).


The application process includes an essay and, for finalists, an interview with a selection committee. The selection committee is composed of University faculty and staff and former Bonderman Fellows.


Brook Kelly, Honors Program adviser and 2003 Bonderman Fellow who served on the 2006 selection committee, says the process is designed to ensure that students know what they’re getting themselves into. “Traveling by yourself for that length of time and in such distant places can be challenging, to say the least, and we want to make sure these individuals are up for it.”


To find out, they might look at Charlie Rogers’ blog. Rogers, a current Bonderman Fellow, undergraduate honors student, and Community & Environmental Planning and Comparative History of Ideas major, is bicycling through China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso. He writes:


“Hoc tells me he studied English for six years at Quang Binh University. He says he is a very busy man. I can tell he’s either not happy the police burdened him with the task of translation or perhaps he’s worried for me. He asks me if I am lost. Hmmmm. Good question. It’s true that I have no idea where I am. So I am lost. But I also don’t feel lost because lost is where I want to be. Usually getting lost is something unintended. So if you’re lost, and lost is exactly where you want to be, are you still lost? Confused, I just answer no.”


Below is information about each of the 2006 UW fellows:


Undergraduate University Honors Students


Peter Berberian, a senior studying neurobiology and sociocultural anthropology, was born and raised in Wallingford. He plans to visit a diverse collection of lusophone countries — nations and territories once colonized by the Portuguese, including but not limited to Brazil, Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Goa, and East Timor. Seeking the guidance of those devoted to serving children without parents or without homes, he wants to understand the experience of such children, who are sadly deemed problematic or unapproachable by most societies. He looks forward to traveling throughout Sub-Saharan Africa by means of public transport, and to visiting a Sisters of Mercy orphanage in India, operated by the order of nuns made famous by Mother Theresa. Berberian would love the opportunity to someday study public health and internal medicine, focusing on infectious diseases, particularly the neurocognitive deficits associated with malaria.


Brita Fisher is majoring in Comparative History of Ideas and minoring in Latin America Studies. Born in Sitka, Alaska, and raised on Whidbey Island, Fisher intends to travel throughout northwestern Africa (Morocco, Senegal, and Ghana specifically), India and Nepal, and throughout the Andean countries of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile. Fisher plans to walk as much of her journey as possible, hoping to get to better know and understand the people and places she’s visiting. As she travels, she’ll look at notions of womanhood, particularly how the people in various locations approach and understand the ritual and process of childbirth. When she returns, she hopes to become more active as a doula and embark on a career “most likely in the field of education.”


Rula Green-Gladden says she was “born screaming in Seattle nearly 22 years ago and continued to scream (from excitement, thought her mother) for the first year of her life.” Now, she derives excitement from biochemical mysteries and unusual interactions with strangers on the bus (in English or in Spanish, her minor, which she learned during a summer trip to Ecuador). Green-Gladden plans to wander through Argentina, Brazil, India, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. On this adventure, she hopes to see how people around the world make up personal identity, how changing times impact this make-up, and how individuals with different backgrounds and conceptions of personal identity interact and connect. “But really,” says Green-Gladden, “I’m so excited it borders on the ridiculous.”


Spencer James, a junior majoring in biochemistry, hails from Port Angeles. James will explore southern South America, particularly the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego regions. He’ll continue on to the Mediterranean, spending time in Seville, Spain. James also plans to visit Egypt, Israel, and Turkey, then head to the Karakorum and Kashmir regions of India. While in that corner of the world, James will also spend time in the Himalayas. When he returns from his journey, he plans to finish his biochemistry degree and eventually attend medical school.


Erin Savage, from Pullman, completed a major in biology (emphasis: physiology) and a minor in philosophy. She plans to travel through South America, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa. During this time, Savage plans to re-examine her passions and make new connections within different societies. Savage is considering multiple possibilities upon her return, including graduate work in biology or philosophy, veterinary school, or law school. Of course, those ideas aren’t binding and could change through the course of her travels.


Graduate Students


Mamie Guillaume, law, will explore the cultures of three major regions of the world: Latin America, Southern and Eastern Africa, and East Asia, with particular focus on children’s needs. Her goal is to begin to understand the unique cultures in each region so that in the future she will be a better advocate for children’s rights internationally. These regions highlight three particular threats to children: poverty, HIV/AIDs epidemic, and sexual exploitation. In each region, she plans to travel to the countries most affected by these threats and learn about the culturally specific needs of their children.


Jeremy Joseph, bioengineering, is involved in initiatives at the UW to raise awareness and understanding of the lack of underrepresented minorities in the sciences. He has developed a growing interest in understanding multiculturalism and racial diversity and how they differ from our country to others. He’ll explore other countries in Latin America and Northern Africa that are rich in culture and racial diversity similar to his own and search for stories of success and leadership in various ethnic groups in both economically developing and established countries. He wants to determine how citizens of other countries form their social structures, group identity, perspectives and how they are different from the US.   



Jessica Lustig, drama, will fly into Arles and walk from Arles to Santiago de Compostela via the Camino Santiago pilgrim route. Next, she’ll travel down the Portuguese coast, by horse and donkey as much as possible. Then she will take a train and/or bus across southern Spain to Valencia and catch a series of small boats to most of the islands in the Western Mediterranean. Next comes crossing the Peloponnesian peninsula to depart from Athens, probably by train following the northern edge of the Black Sea, and heading out by train and bus to Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and Thailand, before returning to Seattle.  


Lina Nilsson, bioengineering, will travel through Eurasia and northern Africa in order to understand how different people define the concept of home. She will travel by Trans-Siberian rail from St. Petersburg, through the Russian taiga and the Mongolian Desert to Beijing; overland south through China to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand; by rail through India, from Calcutta to Bombay; and finally, through northern Africa, particularly Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Nilsson says, “To quote Henry Miller, ‘I want travel where the destination is not merely a place but a new way of looking at things.’”


Alex Smolak, social work, says,My vision is to experience the holy places and communities of six major world religions in their places of birth.” He plans to travel to the significant holy sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Middle East. In this region, he intends to focus on Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also plans to visit Iran and Turkey due to the presence of all three Abrahamic religions in both of these countries. When traveling to the significant holy sites of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism in Asia, he will focus on India and Tibet.