Five UChicago students win Davis Projects for Peace grants

Three graduate students and two undergraduates have been awarded Davis Projects for Peace grants to design and implement grassroots projects around the world this summer.

Graduate students Kelli Bosak, Dahlia Hasta Colman and Shauna Taylor have won the grant through the Davis Program’s affiliation with International Houses Worldwide, and fourth-year College students Won Huh and Aparna Nutakki have won through the Davis United World College Scholars Program.

“We congratulate these students for the creativity and innovation that they bring to some of the most difficult problems and conflicts that we face,” said Denise Jorgens, Director of International House Chicago.

This year, a total of 127 winning projects have been selected and are being awarded $10,000 each. Applicants were encouraged to design projects that focus on conflict resolution, reconciliation and building understanding and breaking down barriers. Started in 2007 by philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis on her 100th birthday, the grants are a way to inspire young people to create projects that bring new energy and ideas to the prospects of peace in the world.

Davis and her husband lived at International House New York while attending Columbia University in the 1930s. In past years, she has committed to fund up to 20 Projects for Peace for resident members of International Houses Worldwide. Since 2008, 13 student residents of International House Chicago have been recipients of these grants.

This year's recipients will conduct the following projects:

Kelli Bosak, a student at the School of Social Service Administration, has developed the project Generations of Us: An Intergenerational Storytelling Project on Chicago’s South Side to connect young people on the South Side with older adults to share their personal experiences through oral history interviews. Bosak hopes to use the power of storytelling to promote intergenerational reconciliation and learning between young and older adults in communities impacted by poverty, violence and the criminal justice system.

Dahlia Hasta Colman, an AM student in International Relations, will use the grant for her project Renewing the Source of Peace: Youth-based Community Development in Umsang, Bhutan. The project aims to empower young people, women textile artists and community members by building sheep enclosures and starting a fledgling sheep flock in Umsang. Ultimately, the project intends to rebuild the wool- and textile-based local economy of Umsang, revitalizing the traditional wisdom of shepherding while gearing it toward modern economic opportunities.

Shauna Taylor, a student at the School of Social Service Administration, will use the grant for her project We All Smile in the Same Language at Camp Lesnaya Skazka, a children’s camp in Mari El, Russia. The project will counter the racial tension that has arisen between the generally homogenous Mari El population and families from Tajikistan who have recently inhabited Mari El. Taylor intends to take children attending Camp Lesnaya Skazka through a curriculum that will introduce games, skits, team exercises and crafts that teach the value of diversity and new ways of thinking. 

Won Huh and Aparna Nutakki, fourth-year Biological Sciences students, have developed the Diabetes & Anemia Project to combat the rampant spread of diabetes and anemia in rural India. They will work with a local non-profit for six weeks to screen people for diabetes and anemia. With a total sample population of 500 patients by the end of September, the data should offer an initial glimpse into the rates of prevalence of both diseases for the rural tribal population.

All of the projects will be executed during the summer of 2014, and the students will submit final reports to the Davis Program on their projects in September. The grantees from I-House will document their projects on the I-House website throughout the summer and will make presentations to the community about their work in the fall.

“The Davis Prize is giving us an opportunity to reach out in a meaningful way to some of the underserved populations that we’ve been interested in for a long time,” Nutakki said. “We also hope that this opportunity will establish the foundation for a lasting relationship with these communities.”