Four UNC students have received the UNC Class of 1938 travel fellowships for research abroad this summer.
The students were chosen from among 40 students who submitted proposals for projects outside the U.S. Selection is based on the quality of applicants’ proposals, financial need and seriousness of academic purpose.
Three winners of 2008 Class of 1938 Summer Study Abroad Fellowships, chosen by class members and former fellows, are Sarah Maryam Al-Zoubi of Raleigh, Diana Gergel of Asheville and Kharmika Tillery of Greensboro. Each will receive $4,000.
Emily Joy Rothchild of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received the Witten Travel Award of $3,500. Class of 1938 members Dr. Charles and Margaret Witten of Columbia, S.C., established the award. Witten, who also earned his master’s from UNC in 1940 and his doctorate in 1978, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina.
“The fellowship affords Carolina students multiple opportunities,” said Diana Levy, assistant director of UNC International Student and Scholar Services, through which the fellowships are given. “It can help a student make a career choice and learn not only about another culture, but in many cases, more about who they are and what they can become.”
Since 1975, an endowment created by the class of 1938 has annually funded independent projects abroad by UNC students. Class members, who lived through and lost friends to World War II, created the endowment to help foster international understanding and promote world peace.
Al-Zoubi, a sophomore international studies and Arabic major, will research changes in Muslim identity in Syria. She spent seven months in Syria before attending UNC. She returned to Syria last summer to explore possible research opportunities and will return this summer to conduct oral history interviews.
“My research would be a much-needed breakthrough to understand current movements in popular culture and religion in the Middle East,” she wrote in her proposal.
At UNC, Al-Zoubi was co-organizer for the Middle East Student Forum. She is active in the Muslim Student Association and on behalf of social justice and sexual violence prevention causes.
Gergel, a junior history and political science major, will spend 10 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa, studying the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“I will explore the extent to which the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations for reparations were implemented and their impact on reconciliation in South Africa since the commission’s mandate period from 1994-1997,” she wrote in her proposal.
At UNC, Gergel is a member of Student Government and an advisory board member for the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies and C-START (Carolina Students Taking Academic Responsibility through Teaching), which chooses outstanding seniors to teach courses they have developed.
Tillery, a junior international studies major with minors in Spanish and in Arabic culture, will travel to Guatemala City. There she will volunteer with the nonprofit organization Safe Passage, which works to help poor children. She said that the experience will help her learn about impoverished communities.
“Working with Safe Passage serves as a tool to help provide hope to the children of Guatemala City while simultaneously enhancing my Spanish language and cultural proficiency,” she wrote in her proposal.
Tillery is on the Carolina Union Board of Directors, the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor and involved in the Black Student Movement and the Public Service Scholar Program.
Rothchild, a junior vocal performance and political science major, will travel to Dresden, Germany. There she will research how music acts as a community-building or breaking agent in the lives of Muslim and Lutheran women. Last summer she conducted the first phase of her fieldwork in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which has a Muslim majority and a Lutheran minority. This summer, Rothchild will study a reversed setting, with a Christian majority and a Muslim minority.
“I will recognize the cultural differences and similarities of the Muslim and Lutheran communities and relate them to my own experiences with co-existing religions’ relationships in America,” she wrote in her proposal.
Rothchild co-chairs the women’s affairs committee in the executive branch of Student Government. She also serves in Student Congress and on the advisory councils for the Carolina Women’s Center and the Provost’s Committee on Gender Equity. She is fundraising director of Students for Students International and earlier this year also was one of three recipients of the 2008 University Awards for the Advancement of Women. That awarded was created following the abolition of the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award in 2004.
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