March 28, 2013
From Colgate Athletic Communications
HAMILTON, N.Y. – Basketball season's over and Colgate's Rebekah Ward is busy making plans to join many of her fellow seniors heading for Europe.
Except that Ward won't be earning her dollars on the professional hoops circuit.
One of 40 recipients of the prestigious Watson Fellowship for 2013-14, Ward is being paid a $25,000 stipend to study abroad for a year. She chose to research the bias and condemnation against Roma culture, mostly in Europe but also in Brazil.
The Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States awarded to graduating college seniors nominated by participating institutions. It offers college graduates of “unusual promise” a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel – in international settings new to them – to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness and leadership, and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.
“It's not like a Fulbright, where you're going to do research to produce a scholarly product,” said Ward, a psychology major emphasizing peace and conflict studies. “The way it's been explained to us throughout the process is that the actual product is the person that emerges from the year.”
Srikar Gullapalli also was selected from Colgate and will be studying local citizen-government relationships in several different countries.
August Start Date
Ward plans to begin her tour by Aug. 1. The $25,000 stipend covers her living expenses and research, but Ward is not allowed to supplement that amount with her own funding. And she's also not allowed to return to the U.S. or her native Canada for 12 months.
“I'm banned; kicked out,” she said with a laugh. “And the dollar amount is set where it is because it's not supposed to be half-funding for a vacation.”
She will have contacts helping her, but one of the purposes of the fellowship is for it to be a mostly solo effort. Two weeks is the maximum time her parents are allowed to visit.
“I'll be going through Europe west to east – or the familiar to the unfamiliar in terms of languages and places I've been before,” Ward said. “I'll be looking at the cultural communication between Roma populations and the majority population in each place I visit.”
Known more often by their derogatory term Gypsies, the Roma have no nation or homeland. Ward says they have being marginalized and discriminated against across the globe.
“In certain regions they been enslaved, in others they've been chased out or been victims of genocide,” Ward said. “The dynamic of having two very distinct cultures in very close proximity and how they interact is what interests me.”
The Montreal native just completed her Colgate basketball career as a four-year letterwinner. Her dedication to the team despite playing a reserve role was never lost on her head coach.
“I vividly remember my first meeting with Bekah after accepting the position as head women's basketball coach at Colgate,” Nicci Hays Fort said. “After the initial blank stare of amazement when Bekah was sharing with me her educational focus and what she wanted to do in life, I realized this was a very special student-athlete.”
Hays Fort said Ward's commitment to the team was never more evident than during her final Watson Fellowship interview.
“She was very concerned because the interview fell on the same day as our January game at Army,” Hays Fort said. “Her interview time originally was in the afternoon, which means she would have missed the game. So Bekah asked to have her interview time moved to the morning and then one of our coaches drove her to West Point after the interview and in time for the game.
“Just a true statement on dedication to your commitments.
For Ward, it's simply part of her DNA.
“The question people ask me is, 'Why Roma?'” Ward said. “But I counter that by asking, 'Why social justice in general? Why do so many people fight for equality or against prejudice when it's also such a piece of the way humans think and act?'”
The most exciting year of her educational experience to date just might help her answer those questions.