Chapovalova, who graduated in December 2012 with a degree in psychology, is one of only 39 U.S. scholars chosen for the 2013-14 academic year. She also is one of two students from New York schools to earn the scholarship (the other recipient is from New York University). She will pursue a PhD in polar studies at Cambridge.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Chapovalova, who was born in Russia, moved to the United States at age 5, and now lives in Pleasantville. “Binghamton University gave me the foundation to receive this scholarship.”
Janice McDonald, director of the Office of External Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards and the Undergraduate Research Center, assisted Chapovalova on the Gates Cambridge application. She called Chapovalova “a wonderful student to work with.”
“She is an excellent student who sought out academic challenges and research experiences,” McDonald said. “These experiences not only helped her focus her academic plans, but demonstrated her commitment to her field and her potential to succeed in a challenging graduate program. All of these are elements that characterize successful applicants for highly competitive scholarships.”
Established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 with a $210 million endowment, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is considered one of the world’s most competitive awards. The scholarships allow graduate students from outside the United Kingdom to study at Cambridge and receive full funding for the duration of the degree. The program, which strives to build a network of future world leaders who will work to improve the lives of others, draws 800 U.S. applicants per year. That pool is then cut to 100 who go to Washington, D.C. for an interview. No more than 40 U.S. scholars and 50 other international scholars are selected each year.
Chapovalova’s research will center on examining the healing practices of the Skolt Sami, indigenous people who live in Norway, Finland and Russia. She will conduct her research through the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge and work with Piers Vitebsky, an internationally renowned anthropologist at the institute who has lived with an indigenous community in the Russian Arctic.
“The program at Cambridge is perfect for the kind of research I want to do,” Chapovalova said. “Also, the Gates Cambridge looks for a broader impact and the projects I plan to do in the Sami communities would be best done within the Polar Research Institute where everybody is connected to the region.”
Chapovalova’s goal is to use western and traditional medicine to improve the healthcare system in Sami communities. She has already traveled to the region to conduct interviews for Sami cultural revitalization programs and is working with a Sami museum in Neiden, Norway, to display her video work. She plans to return in March to conduct more research before starting Cambridge classes in October.
-By Eric Coker
Read the entire story at Inside Binghamton.