Sixteen undergraduates, selected through a competitive process to become Brown International Scholars Program Fellows, will receive $5,000 to conduct independent research projects with an international focus this coming summer. The University recognized the fellows in a ceremony at the Hope Club March 19.
The fellowship program, housed in the Swearer Center for Public Service and funded by the Office of International Affairs, is intended for “students thinking about the connection between their academic interest and its value to a public audience,” said Kerrissa Heffernan, director of the Brown International Scholars Program.
“This allows us to consider a broad range of disciplines, from engineers designing ways to pump water in India to art historians entertaining questions about cultural heritage,” Heffernan added.
Vanes Ibric ’13 was among the undergraduates awarded the fellowship this year. Ibric said the award would allow him to travel to and live in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for two months this summer and conduct research at the Institute for Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law at the University of Sarajevo.
“I will be working with professors from the institute and looking at the international criminal tribunal for former Yugoslavia and whether or not it results in reconciling the three ethnic groups,” Ibric said.
Ibric, who designed his project after learning about the fellowship and brainstorming possible topics to fit the criteria, said he hopes to eventually attend graduate school in order to study “the influence of international law and international criminal institutions” and analyze whether it is “an efficient tool for bringing justice” to his home country of Bosnia.
Last winter, inspired by a history seminar about the Vietnam War, Eun Seo Jo ’13 began research at the National Archive in Seoul, South Korea, on a project titled “Korea’s Forgotten War.” The history seminar had been taught from the American perspective, and Jo, who is Korean, wished to shine light on how it impacted the rest of Asia, Jo said.
Jo was awarded one of the coveted BISP 2012 fellowships in order to continue his research this coming summer in Korea, which he said he hopes to eventually use toward a senior thesis on the topic.
“The objective is to get a bottom-up narrative about veterans’ experiences, including the story of the rise of Koreatown in Saigon and the massive influx of labor into that area during the war,” Jo said. “It led to racial tensions and increased Orientalism because it was a mix of Americans, Koreans and Vietnamese.”
In order to complete his project, Jo said he must return to Korea to interview more veterans and revisit useful documents. The fellowship award will cover the cost of his flights to and from Korea.
Though she characterized the fellowship award as “generous,” Heffernan also said, “with most students staying between 10 to 12 weeks, $5,000 won’t go very far.”
”If a student is flying to Africa, that’s going to chew up about half their award right there,” she added. She also expressed concern about the fellowship awards’ adequacy in meeting the financial needs of two students planning to conduct research in London during the Summer Olympics.
The fellows’ work will continue upon their return to Brown in the fall, when they will each continue work on their projects with a faculty member.
“As part of the award, you agree to participate in a community of fellows that meets every other week throughout the year,” Heffernan said. “Part of the challenge in the application process is constructing this community. We don’t want to take 10 people in public health and nobody in comparative literature.” She added that she hoped the fellows would continue to “talk to each other throughout the year and hopefully for much longer.”
This year, the number of applicants for the fellowship was significantly higher than in the two previous years that the fellowship has been offered.
”The BISP is young, and students don’t know about it so I invested a lot of energy into PR campaigns, and it did increase the pool of applicants specifically,” Heffernan said.
Last year, Heffernan said, “there were fewer applications but the winners were just as strong.”