The Royster Society of Fellows attracts exceptionally talented graduate students from around the world to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The fellowship program also prepares them for unprecedented global learning opportunities.
International education is important for graduate students because it has the potential to amplify all they do as researchers and scholars, said Jennifer Gerz-Escandón, associate dean for interdisciplinary education and fellowship programs in The Graduate School.
“We live in a world where local has become global,” Gerz-Escandón said. “You only have to look around Chapel Hill to appreciate the wealth of languages you hear spoken.”
The Graduate School is dedicated to global education, both in Chapel Hill and abroad. One of the newest efforts is the Royster Global initiative, through which The Graduate School prepares students for global learning and career opportunities. Last summer, The Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows invited doctoral students from King’s College London (KCL) to visit UNC-Chapel Hill for the inaugural Royster Global international conference. Students from both universities discussed various aspects of global education, including preparing for a global job market. This year, Royster fellows will visit KCL to continue the conversation. Collaborations with other international universities are planned in the future.
Royster Distinguished Professor Marsha Collins said collaboration and teamwork, essential in any profession, are increasingly happening across national lines.
“Everything occurs in a global context, and our graduate students — really all of our students — are not only citizens of one or more countries or nations. They really are citizens of the world,” she said. “So the more experience and the earlier it comes, I think the better it’s going to be for everyone.”
First-year Royster fellow Ben Lee, an occupational science doctoral student who studies adults who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, will attend the summer 2018 KCL conference themed “Civil Society and the Role of the University” in London.
Lee grew up in New Zealand, studied in Australia and France and worked in India. He has always been interested in learning about different cultures, languages and ways of life.
“Human diversity is something I continually find myself in awe of,” Lee said. “Traveling has taught me to be open and enthusiastic about learning about difference and appreciate a wider range of perspectives, and I think this trait will serve me well in any career path I pursue.”
Carlee Forbes, an art history doctoral student and a Royster fellow, will also travel to London for the conference. She studies colonial-era Congolese art and is currently conducting research in Belgian museum collections and archives through a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship. Her research has taken her across the United States and to Amsterdam, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Forbes, originally from Michigan, works with scholars from around the world in her research.
“Each time we are gathered or exchange information, I recognize that we have so much to learn from each other,” Forbes said. “These lessons can be in terms of methodology, writing, resources, presentation styles or almost anything. Interacting with international scholars has definitely challenged my scholarly perspective many times.”
Colin Post, a doctoral student in information and library science, participated in last year’s conference and will travel to London this summer. Post, a Royster fellow, is looking forward to continuing the conversation with a group of talented and insightful individuals from both universities.
“I’m also looking forward to meeting with some of the faculty at KCL in my particular area of research,” Post, a Michigan native, said. “I think making these connections will usefully inform my dissertation research, and also help me later on in my career by building a strong professional network.”
By Christine Scalora