With $5,000 awards to support separate creative projects, two students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi students have been named 2017 Barksdale Award winners.
John Chappell, a sophomore Arabic and international studies major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Elizabeth Taylor, a junior sociology major from Sherman, Texas, were presented the awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation earlier this month.
The Barksdale Awards were established in 2005 to encourage students to test themselves in environments beyond the classroom, teaching lab or library. Chappell and Taylor are the 21st and 22nd recipients of the honor.
“I am very proud of these two citizen scholars,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “They demonstrate what is possible when you confront a question with both mind and heart, and a willingness to risk failure. Good for both of them. We can’t wait to see what comes from their efforts.”
Chappell is planning a comparative study of local water politics in Morocco and New Mexico. Taylor will spend a month in Dublin, Ireland, in association with Ruhama, a nongovernmental organization that has been successful working with those affected by sex trafficking and prostitution.
“I suspect that the water politics or irrigation systems in both Morocco and New Mexico show the influence of Arab institutions,” said Chappell, who expects to graduate in May 2019 with a focus in Middle East and international governance and politics. “I hope to test this hypothesis and also to learn more about the socio-political structures at work in water-scarce environments in general.”
A Croft Scholar and the winner of UM’s 2016 Arabic Language Award, Chappell spent last summer in Morocco. There, he used his Arabic to communicate with Moroccan artisans in arranging for high-quality, fair trade art for sale internationally.
He is former president and founder of Rebels for Global Opportunity, an international advocacy group focusing on U.S.-international development policy. He is also president and board member of Rebel Global Connections, which seeks to introduce elementary students to world cultures through intercultural events in schools.
Chappell has worked as a research assistant to Vivian Ibrahim, Croft associate professor of history and international studies.
“John possesses proven research, language and interpersonal skills,” Ibrahim wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He is dynamic. More than that, he is genuinely inquisitive.”
The first person to receive a Barksdale Award through the Honors College’s junior entry program, Taylor transferred to Ole Miss after completing her associate’s degree from Grayson College in Denison, Texas, graduating summa cum laude. She was president of the Grayson Honors College, a delegate to Model UN, a Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Scholar and a District Two Hall of Honor member.
Taylor was also an All-USA Scholar, Pierce Scholar, Guistwhite Scholar and a New Century Scholar.
“By creating an organizational ethnography of Ruhama, I want to figure out how to create similar nonjudgmental social, psychological and infrastructure support in the U.S.,” she said.
Taylor understands firsthand about food pantries, being hungry and surviving sexual assault.
“By the age of 9, I had lost my father and both grandmothers to cancer,” she said. “My mother, who struggled with drug addiction, was in and out of prison before being diagnosed with leukemia.”
Defying the odds, Taylor continues to achieve at the highest levels. At UM, she is involved with both McLean Mentors and Rebels Against Sexual Assault. She was also 2015-16 Phi Theta Kappa International vice president of Division ll.
Taylor also worked with James Thomas, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, in exploring how water policy is formulated and how it impacts disadvantaged communities.
“Elizabeth’s proposal is bold, ambitious and has the potential to shape important social policies at the national and international levels,” Thomas wrote in a letter of recommendation. “When Elizabeth sets her mind to something, the sky is the limit for her.”
For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit https://www.honors.olemiss.edu/
By Edwin Smith
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