Tuesday, January 23 , 2018, 12:13 am | Fair 53º


UCSB Graduate Students Elijah Bender, William Dewey Awarded Fulbright Fellowships

Two UC Santa Barbara graduate students have been awarded Fulbright Fellowships for 2014-15, it was announced last week.

Elijah Bender
Elijah Bender

The recipients of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program study/research grants are Elijah Bender, a Ph.D. student in History, and William Dewey, a Ph.D. student in Religious Studies.

Winners of these grants, which are available in about 140 countries, design their own projects and typically work with advisors at foreign universities and other institutes of higher education.

Bender was awarded a research grant to Japan. The title of his project is “Wind, Forest, Fire, and Mountain: The Evolution of Resource Disputes and Local Society in a Japanese Province, 1450-1650.”

Dewey will use his research grant in India. The title of his project is “Tibet’s Forgotten Regents.”

Grant awardees receive such benefits as round-trip airfare and a monthly stipend. Other possible benefits include tuition, language lessons and a research allowance.

Bender, a fourth-year history Ph.D. student, focuses on pre-modern Japan and environmental history.

In Japan, Bender will work with Professor Sasamoto Shoji of Shinshu University.

“Professor Sasamoto is an expert in the history of medieval Kai province, the region I've chosen to study for my dissertation,” Bender said. “I will be sitting in on his seminars and interacting with his graduate students.

"However, the bulk of my activities will be reading medieval Japanese manuscripts. These can be very difficult to decipher, and the assistance of a specialist is often required to truly understand these documents. I will also spend some time learning about the place, which is now called Yamanashi Prefecture. I think an intimate understanding of place is crucial to writing a quality regional history, and the experience of living and working there is an intangible that cannot be replicated in any other way. I will be leaving for Shinshu University, in Matsumoto City, at the end of September.”

Bender received the news that he won the fellowship on his birthday. He had not been optimistic about his chances, he said, since he had applied last year without success.

William Dewey
William Dewey

“These awards are, of course, extremely competitive, and to be honest I'm blown away to be one of the handful of people to receive one,” Bender said. “In addition to being a means of support for my dissertation research, for me the Fulbright is really validation. It is validation that my work is valuable and compelling to people — that it has something to contribute. Winning such a prestigious award is proof that I can articulate my research in a way that matters to people. That is of utmost importance to me.”

Dewey, who entered the Religious Studies program in 2010 and went ABD in spring 2013, focuses on Buddhist studies.

“I am studying the regents of Tibet's Dalai Lamas, the incarnate Buddhas who ruled Tibet before the Chinese took over,” Dewey said. “This system of ‘government by incarnation’ means that only after a Dalai Lama dies is a child recognized as his successor. While the Dalai Lama is too young to rule, or otherwise incapacitated, a regent is supposed to take his place as religious and political leader of Tibet.

"I am looking at regents in the period 1750-1800, to see how they functioned as religious and political figures, and their role in Tibetan ‘theocracy.’ My main sources will be their biographies, which are written in the Classical period.”

Dewey has already spent six months doing research in India, through a grant and funding assistance from his department.

“I will be at the Central University of Tibetan Studies at Sarnath, where Tibetan scholars, researchers and students will be helping me translate the biographies," he said. "I will also take advantage of the library archives there, and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharmasala.”

Dewey takes pride in his award: “That my proposal could win a Fulbright gives me a lot of confidence as I work to complete my project, and lets me know that people other than me find my research worthwhile. My father (a professor of art history at Penn State) also did Fulbright grants as a graduate student and professor, so I’m proud to follow in his footsteps.”

For more than 65 years, the federal government-sponsored Fulbright U.S. Student Program has provided U.S. students an unmatched opportunity to study, conduct research and teach in other countries. Fulbright grants aim to increase mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchange while serving as a catalyst for long-term leadership development.

For more information, visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website by clicking here.

— Patricia Marroquin is the communications director for the UCSB Graduate Division and writes for The Graduate Post.

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