Sujie Zhu ’15 is a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Kara Witherill ’15 is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, and Guillermo Sapaj ’15 and Benard Kibet ’18 both won Davis Projects for Peace grants. All were announced in March.
Sujie Zhu ’15 won a 2015 Watson Fellowship, a $30,000 stipend to spend a year traveling the world for independent study outside the United States. A global studies and theater and dance double major who is minoring in anthropology, Zhu embarks this summer on a project titled “Expanding Possibility: Exploring Cross-Cultural Improvisational Performance.” She plans on researching performing arts in Senegal, Japan, India, and Poland.
Colby is one of 40 liberal arts colleges that can nominate students for Watson Fellowships, and the foundation granted 48 Watson Fellowships in this, the 47th class of Watson Fellows. Zhu, from Suzhou, China, attended Lester B. Pearson United World College in Canada before coming to Colby as a Davis United World College Scholar.
In her project’s abstract Zhu wrote: “I will explore variations in improvisational performance by immersing myself in four culturally distinct sites. Viewing practices from other cultures is like looking into a mirror. One’s own boundaries come into focus, catalyzing new discoveries and innovation.” In a Q&A about her plans, Zhu spoke about how Colby’s Theater and Dance Department changed her thinking about performance and how her interest went from superficial concern with appearance to more thought-provoking, norm-subverting, socially conscious elements of performance.
Kara Witherill ’15 of Readfield, Maine, was named a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Germany for the coming academic year. Witherill is a global studies major and a German and chemistry double minor, and she hopes to teach in Bavaria beginning in August or September.
In 2013 she completed a Jan Plan teaching internship in Louisenlund, Germany, and she studied abroad in Marseille, France, last year in the American University Center in Provence program there. She spent last semester at Colby working on independent research titled “Under the Guise of the Game: How Football Acts as an Agent of National Identity in Germany.”
The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant programs place U.S. students in classrooms abroad to help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors, according to the Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright programs for the U.S. Department of State. Witherill is also a candidate for a Fulbright position in Austria.
Colby has had 17 Fulbrights in Germany or Austria over the past eight years, according to Associate Professor of German Arne Koch.
PROJECTS FOR PEACE
Guillermo Sapaj ’15 and Benard Kibet ’18 each won a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant to embark on peace-building missions this summer in Chile and Kenya respectively.
Sapaj’s project, “Building Climate Resilience: Empowering Children in Community-Based Conservation,” aims to promote peace in Chile’s drought-ridden Aconcagua Valley by empowering local children to implement a conservation effort. “I’m convinced that the long-term solutions to the escalating drought struggle will come from the younger generations of central Chile,” Sapaj wrote in his project proposal.
Sapaj will build a reforestation facility that will also serve as an outdoor classroom, upgrade a local organic garden for schoolchildren, and initiate a community compost project.
An environmental science major, Sapaj is from San Felipe, Chile, and attended Pearson United World College before Colby.
Kibet’s project, “Msingi Thabiti (Strong Foundation),” focuses on the one-room Sawich preschool in Kenya. With mud walls and a grass-thatched roof, the school leaks and has a 15-year-old pit latrine that’s a health hazard. Kibet will build a new classroom and latrine and buy desks and chairs to bring “a sense of peace to the lives of those who desperately need a basic education foundation.” Kibet is from the Rift Valley in Kenya.
Sapaj and Kibet won two of 127 Projects for Peace this year—the 15th and 16th awarded to Colby students. The Projects for Peace initiative began in 2007 when philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis funded 100 Projects for Peace in celebration of her 100th birthday. Davis sought to motivate future leaders by challenging them to find ways to “prepare for peace.” Since her death in 2013 her family has honored her legacy by continuing to fund the initiative.
Projects for Peace invites undergraduates at the 91 American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to compete for the grants.