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Jelena Borak '15 named a Watson Fellow

On behalf of the Vassar College Committee on Fellowships, I am pleased to announce that Jelena Borak, an English major, has been awarded the Watson Fellowship for independent study and travel outside the United States for 2015-2016.  Ms. Borak will travel to Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, South Africa, Nepal, South Korea and Thailand to investigate her topic “Peace of Mind through Storytelling.”

From her application: “Post-war reconstruction too often focuses on demolished infrastructure, ignoring the shattered relationships left in the wake of conflict. I will explore how storytelling-or giving testimony of one's own experiences-functions in a post-conflict society, and its possible role in healing divides between old foes, eventually leading to personal and societal healing. By conducting interviews, documenting stories of grief and hope, and observing the transformation of relationships in these communities, I hope to discover what place storytelling has in peacebuilding efforts.”

Ms. Borak plans to “…spend my twelve months traveling and exploring storytelling within post-conflict communities—beginning in peace education initiatives, but eventually branching out to include hard-hit neighborhoods/towns. I want to witness the connections fostered through citizens telling their tales, paying special attention to this practices’ echo in society, relationships, and personal healing. I propose visiting many schools and programs but, instead of anchoring me down in my study, I intend to use them as sprouting points within my exploration of this topic. Beginning each journey by observing specific peace programs will familiarize me with local situations and the intimate history of each conflict, as well as introduce me to the human units involved in peacebuilding efforts. By observing the development of intercommunity relationships, I’ll also get an opportunity to build my own connections with the people and culture, becoming a participant in my surroundings during this seven-country journey, instead of a mere observer.”

THE THOMAS J. WATSON FELLOWSHIP:  “The Foundation provides Fellows an opportunity for a focused and disciplined year of their own devising—a period in which they can have some surcease from the lockstep of prescribed educational and career paths in order to explore a particular interest thoroughly.  During their year abroad, Fellows have an unusual, sustained, and demanding opportunity to take stock of themselves, to test their aspiration and abilities, to view their lives and American society in greater perspective, and to develop a more informed sense of international concern.”