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Fulbright-Hays Award to Fund UM Study Abroad Project in Bolivia

By Clara Turnage

University of Mississippi

Kate Centellas (center), Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies at the University of Mississippi, spends time in the jungle with two students on a recent trip to Bolivia. Centellas will lead a group of 10 students to La Paz, Bolivia, next summer to study medical anthropology and health disparities as part of a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Award. Submitted photo

Ten University of Mississippi students will travel to Bolivia next summer to study the impacts and intricacies of public health anthropology as a part of professor Kate Centellas’ recent Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Award.

For more than a decade, Centellas, associate professor of anthropology and international studies, has traveled and escorted students to the capital city of La Paz to study how health care systems vary in different environments and what effect those differences have on the community.

Although the award is the third Fulbright earned by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in five years, it is the first time the university has received a Group Project Abroad Award. 

“It’s a wonderful accomplishment by Dr. Centellas,” said Jeff Jackson, the department’s chair. “Health issues are global. Many of the issues we have in the United States can be managed better if we look at how those issues are managed in other parts of the world.

“This grant will enable students to participate in that work and learn about the health care system in Bolivia.”

Centellas’ area of expertise is medical anthropology, which focuses on the intersection of culture, society and health. One area of focus is how different cultures approach issues facing health care such as economic conditions, cultural beliefs, disparities and social structures.

“Globally, there are a lot of stereotypes around people in the Deep South and people in Latin America,” Centellas said. “We’re both in relatively poorer areas and looked at as not as advanced as others. 

“This is a corrective to that. This work emphasizes the dynamism of both places and how we can learn from each other.”

Ole Miss students will spend six weeks, beginning July 1, 2024, in and around La Paz, where they will hear lectures from professors and experts from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and Universidad Católica Boliviana, work with experts in the field of health care and practice Aymara, one of the native languages still heavily used in the region.

Before the summer class, Centellas will lead a preparatory class on the details and intricacies of Bolivian culture. This class is designed to prepare students for living and studying abroad while serving as an introduction to the kind of work they will do in La Paz, she said.

“International education is so critical,” Centellas said.

The Fulbright-Hays award will fully fund the trip for students, including airfare, housing and education costs, she said.

“This is a great opportunity for students who are first-generation or who may not have considered studying abroad before,” Centellas said. “I strongly encourage people who don’t think that this is a trip for you to apply. It is a trip for you.

“This kind of award levels the playing field for students who are high-achieving but may not have had the opportunities other students have.”

Applications for the class are open. Contact Kate Centellas at kmcentel@olemiss.edu for more information.

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