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LSA senior Chloe Hale was awarded the Wallenberg Fellowship, which will allow her to go abroad and engage in a self-designed and self-directed project, at the Honors Convocation March 20. According to a press release obtained by The Michigan Daily, Hale plans to explore and research the connection between the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women globally.
The fellowship, created to honor Raoul Wallenberg and established in 2012, provides $25,000 in funding for independent projects created and proposed by U-M seniors. Wallenberg was a student at the University of Michigan in the 1930s and later worked as a Swedish diplomat during World War II. Wallenberg has been celebrated for his work rescuing Hungarian-Jewish people in Budapest, handing out protective passports and setting up safe houses during the Holocaust. The fellowship is intended to be a continuation of Wallenberg’s work and offers funding to students who want to make a positive impact on the world.
Hale will partner with the University of Rwanda to study the impact of COVID-19 policies on women and girls in the country. She will specifically investigate how these policies led to changes in Rwanda’s teen pregnancy rates and rates of girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy.
The Michigan Daily spoke with Hale towards the end of her last semester and asked her why she wants to explore the relationship between gender-based violence and COVID-19.
“I think we really saw a rise in cases of domestic violence and sexual exploitation worldwide during COVID,” Hale said. “And because Rwanda saw this increase in teenage pregnancies, it just offered a good opportunity to explore that relationship further, potentially in a quantifiable way.”
Hale decided to conduct her research in Rwanda because wanted to learn more about West African culture. Her past experience with the region includes her work interning at the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) in Uganda.
“I did a good amount of research with (TASSC), interviewing torture survivors from Uganda,” Hale said. “It just made me more curious to learn — especially learning languages makes it easier to interview. I was pretty restricted, only interviewing (survivors) in English.”
Henry Dyson, the Director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, detailed the Wallenberg Fellowship’s nomination and application process.
“The way you apply for Wallenberg is that you have to be nominated by your school or college, so Chloe’s an LSA student and had to be nominated by LSA,” Dyson said. “And so, we had an LSA committee with faculty and staff from different LSA units that reviewed applications … and sent (some) forward. So each school or college has its own nomination process … The final Wallenberg fellow was chosen by a faculty panel that has folks from (the schools of) public health, LSA, social work, education (and) SMTD, so it’s a pretty University-wide panel.”
The Daily asked Dyson, an advisor for all fellowship applicants, what made Hale’s proposal and application stand out.
“I think one of the things that sort of helped in the deliberation, (is that) she’s partnering with the University of Rwanda,” Dyson said. “We really believe that when she gets on the ground there, she’ll use those contacts to find other community resources. Chloe’s also very good at sort of thinking about how one ethically enters and leaves the community, especially when you’re talking about highly sensitive topics, such as (those) Chloe will be touching on in her fellowship year.”
Dyson said he wishes the University could provide more opportunities like the Wallenberg fellowship for students when he looks at the proposals submitted by undergraduate students.
“My hope for this fellowship is that this is something that a first or second-year student … says, ‘I want to take a shot at this. This is on my bucket list,’” Dyson said. “Right now, we only have funding for one fellow per year. We’re hoping to potentially increase that. But we hope this is something that people see as a sort of aspirational goal because I think it represents the educational ideals of the University as a public university at our best.”
John Godfrey, assistant Rackham dean, spoke more broadly about the Wallenberg fellowship and said the fellowship is an opportunity for students to engage with a passion that wholly engages them — even if it falls outside of their academic specialization.
“Often … (your path has) been laid out very carefully by your family, your teachers, your faculty, your friends,” Godfrey said. “This is a chance to step outside and to take a risk and to devote yourself to a full year … of self-designed experience.”
In 2013, the University planned a public exhibit to celebrate the centenary of Wallenberg’s birth. Godfrey said most undergraduates did not know who Raoul Wallenberg was, and a fellowship in the Wallenberg name would allow for recognition of his work and legacy. Though a great opportunity, Godfrey said the fellowship requires hard work and persistence.
“It’s a very challenging year, where you’ve got to problem solve,” Godfrey said. “You have to deal with being a long way from family and friends (which) brings you into contact with parts of life that you never really encountered.”
Daily News Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.