This Winter Study, the Gaudino Fund will start a new pilot program titled “Uncomfortable Learning,” which will attract students wishing to do independent study off campus. Through “Uncomfortable Learning,” the Gaudino Fund will sponsor a fellowship for a group of three to four students whose project addresses a critical social problem in an unfamiliar environment. The fellowship will replace the Gaudino Fellows program, which in the past has funded seven to eight different independent Winter Study 99 projects annually for the past seven years.
“Uncomfortable Learning” is a continuation of the Gaudino Board’s desire to integrate “risky” learning into the College’s intellectual community, advocating for students to study unfamiliar subjects and confront their personal beliefs to spark richer and more diverse discussion on campus.
Many former 99 projects funded by the Gaudino Fund have successfully embodied the Gaudino Board’s goal and have drastically varied in both areas of study and location, pointing to the historical success the Gaudino Fund’s sponsorship of uncomfortable learning has had.
Gulya Radjapova ’14 traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, to study Shi’a women’s activism, focusing on women’s role in non-governmental and social welfare organizations and how these roles relate to the ideals of womanhood in Shi’a Lebanese society. “Through socio-ethnographic analysis of women’s activism in different spheres of Lebanese society, I wanted to examine women’s ‘social mobilization’ and ‘emancipation’ through the lenses of piety and politics,” Radjapova said. “I was able to conduct numerous interviews with women activists, participate in teach-ins, movie screenings, talks, attend protests to better understand the relationship between public piety and feminism in Beirut.”
Jallicia Jolly ’14 conducted a comparative analysis on the feminization of poverty both domestically and abroad, studying two weeks in Brooklyn, N.Y., and three weeks in Kingston, Jamaica. “[I interviewed] low-income Jamaican women in order to examine their creative responses to precarious economic, social and political conditions,” Jolly said. “I examined the significance of their coping mechanisms in allowing them to confront complex challenges and observed the support networks and resources they rely on to aid in their survival.”
Both Radjapova and Jolly reflected positively on their experiences and the Gaudino program in general. “I think this project was one of the most valuable educational experiences in my Williams career,” Radjapova said. “It was indeed ‘uncomfortable learning’ as I was questioning my existing preconceptions about gender, piety, religion [and] activism throughout my whole time in Beirut. It also allowed me to conduct fieldwork and do truly independent research that is not compatible with any formalized independent study.” Jolly’s independent study has influenced both her academic and career goals: “Gaudino’s legacy has allowed many students, including myself, to have a remarkable opportunity to pursue amazing projects both locally and globally,” Jolly said.
The move from sponsoring independent 99 projects to sponsoring a group of three to four students is significant as it nearly halves the number of funded students. “I was not aware that the fund does not sponsor independent 99s, and to be frank, I am surprised, as I think the format of Winter Study independent 99s was perfect for the Gaudino fellowship,” Radjapova said.
“We think there is considerable value in collaborating with fellow students in designing and implementing interesting projects,” Magnus Bernhardsson, professor of history and Gaudino scholar, said. “You learn a lot about yourself when you work in a group and it can also be inspiring (and fun) to develop ideas with your friends. We also think that the projects could potentially be better thought out and multifaceted.”