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Five UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate Students Awarded Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

September 1, 2020
UNC Global Affairs
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View of South Building on Polk Place on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Five students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were awarded grants under the 2020 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellows Program. Carolina consistently ranks among the top producers of Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellows, and this year was particularly successful as all five UNC-Chapel Hill applicants were awarded this prestigious fellowship.

UNC-Chapel Hill was awarded $130,000 in funding for the program by the U.S. Department of Education. These fellowships allow doctoral students to pursue dissertation research abroad in foreign language and area studies for six to 12 months. During their research, fellows deepen their subject knowledge and develop skills they would not otherwise be able to through opportunities in the U.S.

The Fulbright-Hays DDRA Program is a part of the Fulbright Program, which dates back to 1946 when the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation to create the program as a means to increase understanding between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The 2020 UNC Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellows are listed below in alphabetical order with descriptions of their respective projects.

Rachel Cochran is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History. Cochran’s dissertation, titled “Political Thought in the 18th century Persian Cosmopolis,” will explore how cosmologies, epic narrative traditions and esoteric sciences shaped political thought and practices in the Persian Cosmopolis, a transregional space constituted by the shared legacy of Persian literature and culture. Through research on manuscripts held in Uzbekistan and India, her dissertation examines how Muslim intellectuals circulating across South and Central Asia navigated the widespread economic, environmental and political crises of their era and investigates 18th century Muslim political thought in the context of global history.
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL

Jacob Griffin is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. Griffin’s research, titled “Inflammation and Biological Aging in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” investigates how ecological context and social factors, notably pathogen exposure and physical activity, shape biological aging through changes across multiple physiological systems. Through six months of home visits, biomarker collection and activity monitoring in the northernmost portion of the Ecuadorian Amazon, this project aims to elucidate the evolutionary explanations for biological aging by examining both its pro- and anti-inflammatory pathways.
Hometown: Danville, IA

Beck Henriksen is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. Henriksen’s dissertation, titled “Power of PEACE: Gender, Power and Evangelical Labor in Rwanda’s PEACE Plan,” examines how gendered power dynamics are enacted through state-supported evangelical mission work in post-genocide Rwanda. Specifically, they will investigate the PEACE Plan, a global partnership between American megachurch pastor Rick Warren and Rwandan President Paul Kagame that addresses social, spiritual, political, medical and economic issues. Throughout 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, they will observe PEACE Plan projects around the country and interview PEACE staff to understand both the relationship between gender and evangelical beliefs in PEACE work and how this work intersects more broadly with the Rwandan government’s development goals.
Hometown: Walpole, MA

Lara Lookabaugh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography. Lookabaugh’s dissertation is titled, “Mujeres Tejedoras del Conocimiento: Mam Mayan Women Weaving Knowledge for Decolonial Futures.” In her dissertation, Lara collaborates with the Toj Coman, a Guatemalan women’s collective, to explore how the everyday political and artistic practices of Indigenous women create space to envision and enact alternative futures for their community and for Guatemala. She will spend nine months in Guatemala’s western highlands working with the women’s collective to record oral histories, conduct photo elicitation interviews and participate in tourism and outreach projects.
Hometown: Pensacola, FL

Alfredo Rojas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. Rojas’ dissertation, titled “Cashews and Cooperation: Investigating the Impacts of Cashew Production on Cooperative Labor Strategies in Northwestern Côte d’Ivoire,” examines the impact of cashew on social relations and labor strategies of households in Côte d’Ivoire. Through 12 months of ethnographic research combined with analyses of satellite data, he will interview and survey farming households to explore how involvement in the cashew economy affects cooperation and farm labor in Jula-speaking villages.
Hometown: Boynton Beach, FL

For more information about the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellows program at UNC-Chapel Hill, visit the Center for Global Initiatives’ website. Please contact Iyman Ahmed, program manager, with questions.

Media contact: Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations,

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