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The University of Queensland in Australia has awarded the Frank Pavlin Memorial Prize to Inku Subedi ’05 (Kathmandu, Nepal), who studied there last spring. The honor, which includes a cash prize, is given to the student who earns the highest mark in the Level 2 Introduction to Social Work course.

In addition, Subedi received a Dean of Students Commendation for High Achievement because of her “excellent results” from the semester, which placed her in “the top band of students enrolled in The University of Queensland Study Abroad program,” according to Lisa Gaffney, dean of students at the university. “This is an achievement of which you can be justifiably proud,” she adds.

Outside the university classroom, Subedi was an events coordinator of Oxfam-UQ, an events convener of Amnesty International-UQ, and a member of the Nepal-Australian friendship association.

In her time at Lafayette, Subedi has examined American attitudes toward aging and helped compile a historical database on urban properties and residents in Zanzibar in two separate collaborative research projects with faculty.

This year Subedi, a double major in anthropology & sociology and psychology, drew on the experience of her own country in research for an anthropology & sociology course that brought together the two areas of the major.

“I tried to understand the Maoist conflict that has been going on since 1996, which has taken a heavy toll on human lives and the economy of Nepal,” she says, describing the conflict as “an armed insurgency started by the revolutionary Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist or CPN-M.”

“When I was growing up in Nepal, I never imagined bombs or guns would ever exist in my country,” Subedi says. “But after this insurgency, the number of human casualties has risen to 11,000 in such a short time, and the economic and development infrastructure of the country is devastated. It is difficult to make sense of a situation in which fellow Nepalese are killing each other and civilians are caught up in the horrible war. This was my way of trying to understand the conflict and make sense of the sudden chaos that has engulfed our lives and affected all people in my country.”

Her research involved examining documents written by the CPN-M, government and international reports, and academic papers and applying theories discussed in the class to the arguments she read.

“Since it was quite a broad topic, I concentrated on the forces behind the rise of the conflict and the factors responsible for worsening the situation and strengthening an insurgency propagated by the communist party when socialism is dying out in rest of the world,” she says. “The question is definitely linked to the meaning of democracy in a small country ruled by a monarch.”

Subedi says her professors, William Bissell, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, and David Shulman, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, offered a great deal of help.

“Since my topic was broad and complex, I definitely needed to limit the scope, and discussions with both professors helped me sort out my agendas,” she says. “On top of that, understanding classical theories and applying them can be challenging, and the questions and issues raised by the professors made me think and really understand the concepts and how they fit into the picture of my topic.”

According to Bissell, the Theories of Society course serves as an unofficial capstone for students, requiring them to “synthesize theoretical approaches from both anthropology and sociology to deepen their understanding of a topic of their own choosing.”

“We know from evaluations and comments that students who have taken the course have found the paper to be challenging and very rewarding,” he says. “The element that is worth emphasizing in the assignment is that students must apply social science theory to address concrete, real-world subjects. The class builds on a foundation of knowledge from earlier courses in the major, which in the end helps students to produce a serious and sustained piece of analytical research.”

He also believes it is crucial that faculty from both anthropology and sociology teach the course.

“It enriches the students’ appreciation for the nuances of both disciplines and exposes them to the collegiality and interdisciplinary nature of the major,” he says.

Subedi says the library’s facilities and resources have enabled her to work seriously on a number of projects.

“The Skillman Library staff has been amazing in procuring books and journals in related topics,” she says. “I have always been encouraged to test my critical thinking and creativity.”

Subedi adds that the anthropology and sociology department “is almost a second home to me. I have enjoyed almost all the upper-level classes I have taken. The faculty is just great, and I feel comfortable enough to share my ideas. I get feedback and am encouraged to pursue them.”

Also this school year, she is working on a Technology Clinic project that examines ways to revitalize the Delaware River waterfront areas in Easton and Phillipsburg. The project focuses on using the “free bridge” that spans the river between the two communities as a cultural and symbolic unifier.

In addition, Subedi conducted a cross-cultural study of body image in young women and attitudes toward aging for a senior honors thesis in psychology.

Subedi, who hopes to work for a humanitarian organization following graduation, is president of the Asian Cultural Association, a peer counselor, a psychology lab teaching assistant, and a public relations officer for the campus psychology club. She is a former international peer adviser and member of Alternative Spring Break Club.

Categorized in: Academic News