UW students explore far-reaches of the globe by means of unusual fellowship
By Kirsten Atik
Eleven University of Washington students recently received word that they’ve been awarded a Bonderman Travel Fellowship. Students traveling with this $20,000 fellowship set off on journeys that are at least eight months long and take them to at least two 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 to apply.
Collectively, the 2009 Bonderman Fellows will travel to Chile, Argentina, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Borneo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan, China, Norway, Romania, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Morocco, and other countries and regions. Their interests include learning how youth are expressing themselves in regard to recent civil wars, national conflicts, genocide and apartheid; traveling to post-colonial countries rebuilding from systematic racism to witness and experience the strength of art; being exposed to different environments and cultures; and spending time in places where people’s immediate needs conflict with environmental preservation priorities; and more.
The Bonderman is an unusual fellowship. While other fellowships fund students to travel for international study, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Burch, Harvard’s Sheldon and Watson among them, the Bonderman Fellowship aims to expose students to the intrinsic, often life-changing, benefits of travel. Since 1995, 137 UW students—92 undergraduate and 45 graduate students—have been named Bonderman Fellows (numbers include students selected in 2009).
The application process includes an essay and interview with a selection committee. The selection committee is comprised of University faculty and staff and former Bonderman Fellows.
Brook Kelly, Honors Program adviser and 2003 Bonderman Fellow who served on the 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.”
2009 Undergraduate Bonderman Fellows
Evan Elise Easton-Calabria, Graduating Senior (class of 2009)
Minor: Human Rights
Hometown: Seattle, WA
UW Honors Student
Evan Easton-Calabria is heavily involved in the Darfur campaign and has interned at Save Darfur Washington State and is an officer of STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur). She is also a recipient of the Desmond Tutu Emerging Leaders Award.
Easton-Calabria intends to travel through Chile, Argentina, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa, and explore the ways different cultures address reconciliation. Specifically, she hopes to expand her understanding by learning how youth are expressing themselves in regard to recent civil wars, national conflicts, genocide and apartheid. Through listening, communicating and writing about her experiences, she hopes to better understand the ways different countries, communities, and citizens are dealing with their pasts. Easton-Calabria will begin in the summer of 2010 and will continue traveling as long as she can. She says, “This year I have become more and more aware of the outside forces I am shaped by, and this is one reason why I am hoping to travel to new countries…I feel the need to step outside the boundaries of my country and comfort zone, and expand my worldview.”
Sara Michele Drescher, Senior
Majors: Biology and Public Health
Hometown: Olympia, WA
UW Honors Student
Sara Drescher is currently working in multiple laboratories at UW. Not only is she studying evolution in social organisms at Kerr Laboratory, she also cares for macaque monkeys in the Infant Primate Research Laboratory. Drescher’s previous international experiences include traveling to Zimbabwe and Switzerland.
Drescher, who will return the UW to finish her degrees in biology and public health after her journey, would like to spend time in places where people’s immediate needs conflict with environmental preservation priorities. She hopes that those people can help her see ways in which these needs can be balanced. To that end, she would like to visit areas like the rainforests in Borneo and Brazil, islands like Tuvalu, desert ecosystems like those in Ethiopia and Egypt, among others. She is also interested in the way that culture is shaped by environment. She will begin traveling in summer 2009 and return in the spring of 2010. In her proposal, Drescher wrote, “The challenges I expect to face make me even more eager to begin. I want to stretch my perception of my own capabilities. I want to prove that I can face challenges and come out stronger (and hopefully a little smarter) on the other side. Even more, I want to travel because I know that often the hardest lessons to swallow are the ones I need the most.”
Joshua Gregory Johnson, Graduating Senior (class of 2009)
Majors: Social Welfare and Anthropology
Hometown: Seattle, WA
UW Honors Student
Joshua Johnson is an active volunteer. He has been the community organizer of White Center Community Development Association and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. In addition, he has also served as Philanthropy Chair of the GammaMu chapter of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
Johnson, a graduating senior in anthropology and social welfare, says that the hardest part will be finalizing an itinerary! With a Polaroid camera and an iPod he will trek across five continents, with planned stops in Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan, China, India, Norway, Romania, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. Johnson, who plans to begin traveling in July 2009 and return during the summer of 2010, says “I am grateful, and will avail myself of this opportunity in exposure to many of the world’s amazing cultures… Solo travel feels appropriate; my most significant learning has occurred when alone (with music and pen in hand), where I can reflect more personally. I enjoy traveling because it allows me the chance to walk with others from different lifestyles, and take a part in the interconnectedness of our diverse global community.”
Martina Kartman, Graduating Senior (class of 2009)
Majors: Law, Society and Justice and Women Studies
Minors: Human Rights and Diversity Studies
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
UW Honors Student
Kartman will travel between January and October 2010 in the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, and Morocco, and probably many other countries along the way. Motivated by her education and her personal experiences with adversity and difference, Martina wants to travel to post-colonial countries rebuilding from systematic racism, to witness and experience the strength of art. From the Ghetto Youth Uprising in Port Elizabeth to Islamic hip hop movement in Morocco, she wants to learn beyond what the classroom can teach and feel the narrative through art—essential to getting whole picture. In her proposal Martina wrote, “How do I reconcile the contradictory parts of this travel? I want to go so that I can learn and grow and be a more thoughtful being and responsible global citizen, yet I know that the nature of travel is that people end up backpacking and snorkeling through vital resources, land, culture, and ultimately tourism can be detrimental to the lives of the people I am supposedly living with, bonding with, being friends with. I’d like to think I am not included in that group; that I am in some way exempt merely because I’m aware of this dichotomy. But I don’t yet know what it means for me to travel in this way. Is it enough to be conscious?”
Samuel Robert Sudar, Graduating Senior (class of 2009)
Majors: English, Philosophy, Neurobiology
Hometown: Longview, WA
UW Honors Student
Sam Sudar is an accomplished scholar who is the recipient of multiple awards, including a 2009 Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a 2008 UNCF-Merck Grant, and Phi Beta Kappa membership. Sudar also works at multiple research labs at the UW, plays classical and rock guitar, and is co-president of the Community of Mary Gates Scholars.
Sudar will travel north to south in South America, starting in Caracas and ending in Puntas Arenas. He’ll then travel south to north in Asia, starting in Singapore and traveling to Mount Tai in China, ancient home of the poet Cold Mountain. Sudar, who has never traveled outside the United States before, is also a 2009 Gates-Cambridge Scholar, and will be entering Cambridge after he returns from his journey. He plans to travel between September 2009 and July 2010. In his fellowship proposal Sam says, “Exposure to different cultures is something that I believe is a very important part of becoming an intellectual adult. This importance is strengthened by the fact that many of my literary heroes have been profoundly changed by their international experiences. At this point in my life, I have virtually no international travel experience that could serve as a personal example of this importance…Finally, graduating at the end of my fifth year this June, I will have the opportunity to travel.”
2009 Graduate Bonderman Fellows
2009 Graduate student Bonderman Fellows are: Sergey Feldman, Deric Gruen, Melissa Maxa, Allison Mitnick, George Rodriguez, and Bethanne Zelano.
For information about Graduate Bonderman fellows, contact George Martinez, communications director of The Graduate School: 206 685-6793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University Honors Program
The University Honors Program integrates challenging courses and diverse learning experiences for academically motivated students in a close community of faculty, staff, and peers. The core curriculum offers a broad liberal education, while departmental honors programs provide a deep disciplinary education. The program asks students to take intellectual risks; to seek an understanding of the interdependence of all branches of knowledge; to take leadership roles in confronting global change; to see the complexities of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality; and to value a life of continuous learning and personal growth.
Since 1885, the UW has awarded more than 58,000 graduate degrees, now offered in more than 120 fields of study. In 2010, the UW Graduate School will celebrate its centennial. The Graduate School administers graduate degree programs and helps students navigate processes and requirements; supports learning and research; upholds standards of excellence; advocates for graduate education; provides professional development and mentoring; catalyzes innovation; and promotes leadership through productive careers.