Elisabeth Sewall '05 Offered Fulbright Scholarship
Elisabeth Sewall, a 2005 Occidental College graduate, has been offered a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study Ukrainian efforts to create a national identity since gaining political independence in 1991.
The Portland, Maine, resident and 2001 graduate of Waynflete School will spend a year researching Ukraine’s cultural makeup and the history of its development. “Many Ukrainians in contemporary society would like to recognize political and cultural ties to Russia,” said Sewall, a group language major at Occidental. “The fact that a significant proportion of Ukraine’s population is ethnically Russian and that the Russian language is still widely used further complicates the notion of an independent, distinct Ukraine.”
Under the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s history and national character became a matter of political interpretation, Sewall said. “For Stalin, Ukraine represented a distinct threat to his empire,” she added, noting that at the time the Communist Party of Ukraine purged party and state institutions and suppressed any forms of national identity and culture. “While clearly Soviet experience remains a relevant and powerful source of influence on Ukraine’s citizens, today’s question is: How are Ukrainians dealing with drastic change in the political and social landscape?”
Sewall will take courses at the University of Kiev dealing with the history, geography and contemporary culture of Ukraine. She will supplement her classwork with independent research, including an exploration of Kiev’s cultural and social institutions. She also will conduct interviews and survey other communities in Ukraine.
“Libby Sewall is one of the most self-reliant and self-motivated students I have ever worked with,” said Walter Comins-Richmond, Sewall’s faculty advisor and adjunct assistant professor of Russian. “The Ukraine project is another example of her unique character. She conceived this plan and developed the proposal on her own and, as in the past, used her superlative intellectual abilities to achieve her goal.”
Sewall joins Jamie Ko ’05 of Warren, Ohio, in winning a Fulbright this year. The pair are the fourth and fifth Occidental students in two years to receive the award, which covers travel, education and living expenses. The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.