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Clockwise, from top left: Abbey Cmiel, Lauren Graham, Alex Polydoroff, Bella Reiss and Nikola Yager.
Clockwise, from top left: Abbey Cmiel, Lauren Graham, Alex Polydoroff, Bella Reiss and Nikola Yager.

Five students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences were selected as recipients of the 2018 Burch Fellowship to pursue unique, self-defined educational experiences anywhere outside UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.

The Burch Fellows Program was established in 1993 by a gift from UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus Lucius E. Burch, III. Its purpose is to recognize undergraduate students at Carolina who possess extraordinary ability, promise, and imagination. The students propose self-designed endeavors that will make a demonstrable difference in the selected Burch Fellows’ lives and enable them to pursue a passionate interest in a way and to a degree not otherwise possible. Funding of up to $6,000 is available towards the expenses of each proposed project.

To be chosen as a Burch Fellow, an applicant must present convincing evidence of exceptional intellectual, creative, civic, or leadership ability and promise through the application, recommendations, and interview. The proposed fellowship experience should allow the pursuit of an intense interest well beyond the scope of an academic course, a vocational commitment, a summer job, internship, or enrichment program.  All Carolina undergraduates who meet eligibility requirements may apply.

Abbey Cmiel, class of 2019, is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and is pursuing a double major in social entrepreneurship and global studies with a minor in Hispanic studies. This summer, she plans to travel to Colombia to investigate the environmental and economic impacts of tourism in the coastal and coffee-growing regions. She will work to construct a sustainable travel exchange program that guides university students through Colombia’s surreal beauty and also supports local businesses and ecology. She hopes to better understand Colombia’s deep respect for its ecosystem and share her knowledge with peers at UNC and beyond.

Lauren Graham, class of 2020, is a political science major from Durham, North Carolina. She will travel to Washington, D.C., and London to research how art narratives impact public perception of immigration. In D.C., she will interview artists whose work has focused on Latino immigrants. In London, she will work with the Migrant Museum and the nonprofit Let Us Learn to support the museum’s mission and work directly with immigrants in England.

Alex Polydoroff, class of 2019, is from Berkeley, California, and is majoring in anthropology and music, with a concentration in jazz bass performance. He will spend three months volunteering in youth migrant camps in Sicily, Italy. Alex will work with the local Intercultural Studies Center to lead music classes that help migrant children collaboratively make music about their experiences, perform their original music at local venues, and eventually record an album ensuring future support for music education in the migrant camps.

Bella Reiss, class of 2019, is from Decatur, Georgia, and is pursuing a double major in peace, war, and defense and global studies with a minor in Hispanic studies. She will travel to Granada, Nicaragua to partner with Soccer Without Borders, an organization that uses soccer as a vehicle for positive engagement and social change. Merging her interest in soccer and passion for advocacy, she will implement a curriculum of female empowerment and community engagement in local schools and after-school programs.

Nikola Yager, class of 2019, is from Boulder, Colorado, and is majoring in public policy with a minor in econometrics. She will combine her entrepreneurial mindset and her passion for human rights to investigate blockchain technology’s place in aid work with refugees. She will spend the summer in New York City interning with ID2020, a public-private partnership committed to providing digital identities to refugees. Nikola will work with ID2020’s Blockchain and Identity team to determine the feasibility and ethical implications of using cryptocurrencies in a humanitarian context.

Read more about the Burch Fellowship here.

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