Sarah Lawrence College senior Teodora Ana Mihai has won a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study Rrom (Gypsy) Identity in the 21st Century. Mihai's Fellowship will take her to Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina and India.
The idea for Mihai's project took shape during her participation in the Sarah Lawrence College in Florence academic year abroad program. While in Florence, Mihai became involved with Amengia, an association of Rrom and Italian youth that aims to promote the understanding of Rrom culture. Building on this experience, Mihai's Watson Fellowship year will include work with organizations that are closely involved with Rrom communities in each of the countries she visits. Mihai hopes to experience the culture and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges Rroma face in contemporary society. "Ultimately, I trust I will be able to use this experience to help address the widespread prejudice against the Rroma," Mihai said.
Nearly 1000 students from 50 selective private colleges and universities applied for one of 60 fellowships. The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program annually awards fellowships to college seniors to pursue independent research projects while traveling outside the United States for one year after their graduation. Students must first be nominated by their college or university, and then compete on a national basis. The fellows each receive $22,000. The program aims to identify prospective leaders, allowing them to develop their independence and to become world citizens.