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This summer, recent LSA graduate Carly Marten was awarded the prestigious Wallenberg Fellowship to pursue a research project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

The award offers $25,000 to a graduating senior interested in public service to conduct a year-long, self-designed research project abroad. 

Henry Dyson, director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships at the University of Michigan, said the fellowship attracts students with a willingness to take risks and strong interest in public service. 

“On the one hand, (they need) an entrepreneurial spirit,” Dyson said. “I mean that broadly in the sense of latching on to an idea. I think a lot of us have ideas, and we think ‘oh, somebody should do that.’ What I mean by entrepreneurial spirit is, ‘no really, somebody should do that — I should do that. What would it take to actually do that?’”

Marten, who is currently conducting research at a sexual assault clinic housed in Addis Ababa’s Menelik II Hospital, chose to investigate the legal barriers to justice for survivors of sexual violence for her Wallenberg proposal. In an interview with The Daily, she noted how this fellowship aligned closely with her interests because it allowed her to adapt her project in ways she may not have been able to with other scholarships or fellowships. 

“The policy that I’ve had for myself is just basically to say ‘yes’ to anything that is offered to me,” Marten said. “It’s been such an honor to have that flexibility, and I’ve also been able to really follow my curiosity. So, when my research strayed a little bit from our original proposal, I felt more at liberty to follow that path than maybe if I had tried to do a Fulbright.”

Marten spent the summer of 2018 in Addis Ababa doing Fulbright research in the same field and chose to return to her project after receiving the Wallenberg Fellowship. Dyson said even though Marten’s research project was detailed and planned out well before the fellowship’s application deadline, her proposal had to be tweaked in order to fit specifically with the Wallenberg mission. 

“The key to this is that people should be applying to multiple scholarships, but they can’t just copy and paste from one opportunity to the other,” Dyson said. “You really have to understand (the scholarship). That was most of the work we did with Carly, it was ‘how do we take an existing Fulbright proposal and make this into a Wallenberg proposal that really understands Wallenberg’s story?’”

The Wallenberg Fellowship and accompanying Wallenberg Medal are named after Raoul Wallenberg, a University alum and Swedish diplomat who spent much of his adult life in Budapest working to save the last remaining Hungarian Jews from persecution during World War II. Wallenberg created a system of safe-houses in Budapest and distributed falsified Swedish visas and passports to Jews at risk of being sent to the concentration camps of Eastern Europe. In early 1945, as the war drew to a close, Wallenberg was arrested by Soviet forces and died in Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison two years later. 

John Godfrey, assistant dean for international education at Rackham Graduate School and chair of the Wallenberg Committee, said Wallenberg’s legacy as a humanitarian and University alum pushed him to establish a fellowship dedicated to serving the public good. 

“In Europe, he is recognized as being one of the great heroes of the Second World War,” Godfrey said. “This fellowship was established to bring his examples to the attention of our students, and to inspire them, and to encourage them to embrace his view of life, which was to be adventuresome, to be willing to go out and see the world close up, to experience communities where people live, to not be intimidated by language barriers but to overcome them and to embrace humane values in the best and broadest sense.”

Marten, who is working alongside a team of researchers in the clinic, said she hoped her research would both contribute meaningfully to the academic field and help survivors of sexual assault in Ethiopia seek out some form of justice. She noted how the established body of work in her area of study often does not include data from Ethiopia, making it an important place to conduct this research. 

“We want to be able to contribute to the literature in this field,” Marten said. “There’s a lot of sexual violence literature when you look at the larger international scope, but if you stick to Ethiopia, the literature, especially coming out of medical clinic spaces, is pretty minimal. We want to be able to contribute to that research community.”

 

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