SIT alumnae returning to Bolivia as Fulbrights
June 29th, 2018 | SIT Study Abroad
SIT Bolivia is proud to welcome alumni Theresa Edwards (2016) and Jackie Gilbert (2014) back to Bolivia as Fulbright Scholarship recipients this year
Jackie will be focusing her research on indigenous activism related to water rights. She will primarily be working with Oscar Olivera and the Fundación Abril throughout her time in Bolivia, and then will travel to Riohacha, Colombia, where she will research the water crisis on the Guajira peninsula, which is predominantly inhabited by the Wayuu.
Jackie was a student at the University of New Hampshire, when she participated in the SIT Bolivia program in spring 2014. "I would not have received a Fulbright grant had I not studied abroad with SIT in Bolivia,” she said. “In addition to learning how to execute an independent research project and conduct fieldwork, I learned that I love doing research (and that I am pretty good at it!) despite the fact that I was intimidated and overwhelmed initially. My current project – a continuation of the research I started while studying abroad – is related to water scarcity in indigenous communities and grassroots activism around water rights. I am incredibly grateful to return to this work and to the amazing community that made it all possible."
In summer 2016, Jackie spent three months in Cuba doing an independent research project, supported by a grant from the University of New Hampshire, on centralized water management, water scarcity, and water rationing in Cuba. Her publication is entitled "Cuba's Water Crisis: Coping with Water Scarcity in Havana and Santiago de Cuba."
Jackie graduated in May 2017 with a double major in anthropology and international affairs, and received the university-wide UNH Women's Award. “I do not think I could have gotten the grant for my research in Cuba, nor would I have received such a huge award upon graduation, had I not studied abroad in Cochabamba. Your program changed my life.”
As a Fulbright research grant recipient, Theresa Edwards will return to Bolivia in September 2018. She will spend three months in Bolivia and six months in Peru, where she will be working with and learning from indigenous communities and organizations in the Amazonian lowlands to study the implementation of international human rights standards for extractive projects on indigenous lands.
Theresa attended Occidental College in Los Angeles. She participated in the SIT Bolivia program in fall 2016, where she studied Quechua and completed her independent study project on the social organization of indigenous peoples against the El Bala/El Chepete hydroelectric project in Parque Madidi.
"The semester that I spent abroad as a participant of the SIT fall 2016 cohort was a key part of my college experience,” Theresa said. “I learned so much from my fellow students and experienced immense personal growth. During the first three months of the program, some of my highlights were spending time with my host family, studying Quechua, and going on the excursions.
“My time in Parque Madidi was the best month of my life! I discovered my passion for community-based research and documentary filmmaking, and learned how to center the core values of reciprocity and respect in my work,” she said.
After her semester abroad, Theresa did an internship at the International Rescue Committee and Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles and the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the United Nations in New York. She graduated summa cum laude from Occidental in May 2018 with a BA in diplomacy and world affairs and Spanish studies. Theresa is currently working as a legal assistant for several immigration attorneys in Seattle and preparing for her trip to Bolivia and Peru.
“I've stayed in close contact with my friends in Bolivia, and I just finished my senior thesis that built on a year and a half of research on my topic that all began with SIT. I'm so excited to build on my existing relationships and create new ones in Bolivia this fall," she said.