Doctoral candidate Laura Roost awarded Fulbright to Rwanda

Released on 05/17/2011, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 17th, 2011 —
Laura Roost
Laura Roost

University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science doctoral candidate Laura Roost of San Diego, Calif., will travel to Rwanda to conduct research on a Fulbright Scholarship. She will research the role of women's non-governmental organizations in the country's post-genocide recovery.

Roost will leave for Rwanda in October and spend 10 months conducting interviews to determine the impact of these organizations. She wants to see how women's concerns were incorporated into recovery efforts and examine the status of women in a post-conflict society.

"I will interview women's organizations to see what they are prioritizing, how they justify their work and how they assess themselves," Roost said. "I also hope to conduct interviews with clients of these organizations to see if the organizations are accomplishing their goals."

This will be Roost's second opportunity to study in Rwanda. She spent two weeks in Rwanda during a 2009 UNL World Campus summer study-abroad course, "Interdisciplinary Study of the 1994 Genocide and its Aftermath," taught and led by Chantal Kalisa. She stayed another week to explore the country on her own. The Fulbright experience will allow her to expand on the knowledge she gained during those three weeks in 2009.

"This previous experience in Rwanda has helped me to focus my Fulbright project and has helped provide contextual understanding for my research," she said. "Focusing on local women's organizations in Rwanda allows me to look at women's experiences during and after genocide, and examine how a society is able to move forward after such conflict."

Kalisa, an associate professor of modern languages and literatures, and women's and gender studies said: "Laura had the ability to see first-hand what a post-conflict society looks like by seeing and hearing from government and non-government officials and survivors of the 1994 genocide of Tutsi."

The opportunity to stay in Rwanda for more than three weeks will let Roost "fully comprehend the complexities involved in the re-birth and re-imagining of Rwanda in the last 17 years," Kalisa said. "The lengthy stay will allow her to see things with fresh eyes in order to come up with more up-to-date conclusions from the field."

In addition to her Ph.D. in political science, Roost is working on a graduate specialization in human rights and humanitarian affairs. She expects to be awarded her doctorate in 2013. Roost also received her master's in political science from UNL. Her passion for studying political science and human rights stems from a desire to understand how disadvantaged groups participate in the political system.

"I have always been concerned about issues of social justice, and studying human rights is a way to understand the problem as well as actively seek ways to make a difference," she said. In late February to early March of 2010, Roost participated in the Practicum in Advocacy organized by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was able to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

On campus, Roost is involved with several groups that combine her interests in political science and human rights. She is a member of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Group and the Women's and Gender Studies Curriculum Committee. She is also a member of the University of Nebraska Student Veterans Organization. Roost served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

For Roost, interviewing women who have lived through genocide will be both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of her Fulbright experience.

"Hearing the experiences of these women, while difficult, will contribute to better grasping the challenges these women have faced and how they are able to continue to face their past and present challenges," she said.

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster understanding between the United States and other countries. The U.S. Student Fulbright program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of the 155 countries that the program operates. The Fulbright program is the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government. About 8,000 grants are awarded annually, and about 1,600 of those grants are awarded to U.S. students.

Roost is the fourth Fulbright scholar chosen in 2011 at UNL, with the possibility of several others.

WRITER: Christine Scalora, Undergraduate Studies

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