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Two Unforgettable Days of Poetry and Politics at Rutgers

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The Department of French presented its first-ever Poetries–Politics colloquium, drawing students, staff, and faculty from across Rutgers University–New Brunswick and transforming the Rutgers Academic Building into a place of art, culture, and intellectual conversation.

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Rutgers Senior Awarded Prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Chelsie Riche, one of 36 U.S. scholars chosen, pursues her quest for equal access to education

By Dory Devlin | February 13, 2017

ChelsieRich inlineWhen Rutgers University senior Chelsie Riche applied for graduate fellowships, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship stood out because of the program’s commitment to scholars working for the greater good.

“The scholarship resonates with what I’ve been doing at Rutgers,” says Riche, 21, who has focused her research and activism on providing access to education for marginalized communities. Riche is one of 36 students nationwide awarded the prestigious scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Majoring in Africana studies and history with a minor in women’s gender studies in the Rutgers University-New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences, Riche also is drawn to Cambridge because of its renowned Centre for African Studies, established in 1965. “I wanted to be a part of that,” Riche says, noting she will pursue a master’s degree in African studies and research on the Fees Must Fall student-led protest movement against increases in fees at South African universities.

“I’ll be looking at how the student revolutionaries who are leading the Fees Must Fall movement are using social media as platforms to motivate students to get more involved,” says Riche, also a member of Douglass Residential College..

Established in 2000, the scholarships funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation cover all fees and living expenses for a student’s full-time master’s or doctoral studies at Cambridge, one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world.

Counting Riche’s award, Rutgers claims nine Gates Cambridge scholars in the last 10 years, says Arthur Casciato, director of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships for Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Riche is one of the most genuine fellowship candidates I’ve ever met – genuine in all of her commitments: to her studies at Cambridge, to the research she wants to do and to her efforts to make the world the best place it can be.”

Riche is deeply passionate about all children having access to quality education. Growing up in Haiti, she was one of the few children in her family able to go to school, so she would teach her cousins who did not attend what she learned in the classroom. After arriving in the United States in 2006, she excelled in her school work in her hometown, Irvington. But Riche struggled during her first year at Rutgers as a first-generation student trying to navigate college life and a rigorous academic schedule. She told Rutgers Today the experience made her realize that the same economic barriers to education she thought she had left behind in Haiti exist in the U.S.

Rather than discourage Riche, the epiphany led her to get more involved helping other students. She helped plan the first Student of Color Conference. She served as president of the Galvanizing and Organizing Youth Activism (GOYA) organization, where she planned 5k walks to promote literacy and collected school supplies for local and global communities. In the spring of 2016, she traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to participate in a service learning program at Ned Doman High School, collaborating with the University of Cape Town to facilitate college readiness workshops for more than 90 learners. The following summer she interned for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), working with his senior team on education policy and on civil rights and social justice issues.

Riche says after the one-year fellowship at Cambridge she aims to obtain a PhD/JD in education and law “to hopefully influence education reform policy.”




Junior Wins Beinecke Scholarship – the First for Rutgers

Diego Atehortua’s dream is to earn his Ph.D. in Latin American art

By Ken Branson | April 24, 2017

Diego Atehortua is fluent in two languages, but he studies art history because he knows there are ideas and emotions that can’t be adequately conveyed in a spoken or written tongue.

DiegoAtehortua2 255“I think art has the power of making sense of this complex and contradictory world we live in,” says Atehortua, an art history major at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences. “It makes things visual and more tangible. And it doesn’t have to be permanent; it can be as ephemeral as a performance.”
Atehortua, a junior born in Colombia and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, is the first Rutgers student to win a Beinecke Scholarship, and one of only 20 students in the United States to receive one this year.

The Beinecke scholarship is a program of the Sperry Fund and provides substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women of exceptional promise. Each scholar receives $4,000 immediately prior to entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school.

“This is a real milestone for Rutgers,” says Arthur D. Casciato, director of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships. “The Beinecke is the most thoroughly academic of the major national fellowships. It’s totally committed to people going on to graduate education. Diego impressed me as someone who would be a first-rate graduate student and scholar.”

Indeed, Atehortua says, his plan is to become an academic art historian. He already knows where he wants to go – Duke University. He’s particularly drawn to the work of Walter Mignolo, the Argentine social critic and exponent of “decolonial aesthetics,” who is a professor at Duke.

Atehortua wants to study art and culture from a non-Eurocentric perspective, and his time at Rutgers has already given him a chance to do that – at the Aresty Research Center, where he did directed research on 20th-century Latin American art; during a summer internship at the Museo de Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia, where he worked in the curatorial department; and, as an assistant to Tatiana Flores, associate professor of art history, helping Flores put together a major exhibition – Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago – for the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California.

“Professor Flores really took me under her wing,” Atehortua says. “Her congeniality, support and belief in my potential have helped me see research as my future.”

As Flores tells it, Atehortua came to her already committed to research as a sophomore. “He came up to me in 2015, when he was taking my class, and said he very much wanted to get a Ph.D. in Latin American art,” she remembers. “That was what he wanted to do with his life. I’ve never met an undergraduate student as research-driven as Diego is.”

Atehortua has plunged into the deep weeds of academic research, according to Flores. He has transcribed interviews she did for her research – in English and Spanish. He has been important to her upcoming exhibition. “Simply put, Diego is my right-hand man as concerns this exhibition,” Flores wrote in her letter supporting Atehortua’s nomination for the scholarship.

Having done the hard work of academic research and having confirmed that it’s the life he wants, Atehortua says he’s excited about his future as an art historian. “I think art makes sense of the things we have difficulty finding language for,” he says.




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