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September 7, 2021

Geoffrion Family Fellows Program Transforms Students into Researchers

Global Initiatives News

Last spring, Navkiran "Nav" Chima, a junior honors student with majors in international studies and political science, was named to the Geoffrion Family Fellows (GFF) Program, part of the annual Altman Program at Miami. This fall, she and seven other Fellows will become bonafide humanities researchers.

The Geoffrion Family Fellowship is the highest honor awarded by the Humanities Center to an undergraduate. According to Geoffrion Family Director Tim Melley, the GFF offers outstanding students extraordinary opportunities for public speaking and intellectual growth in a cutting-edge research community working on a problem of major social consequence. "Most humanities centers have programs to support faculty research, but we wanted to give ambitious students experiences that are truly extraordinary. This meant bringing a very select group of fellows into a large, cross-disciplinary faculty research community," he said.

Chima fits the bill. She is an honors student with majors in international studies and political science, and minors in Arabic and social justice studies; a Presidential Fellow; Global Readiness Cohort Scholar; Interfaith Center intern; and an organizer for the “A Mighty Stream” racial justice initiative in Cincinnati. Her research interests include international human rights law.

As part of GFF, Chima will attend a biweekly, yearlong faculty seminar that explores cutting edge issues from many disciplinary perspectives woven into the Altman Program. With a theme of "Race & Racism: The Problem of Persistence," the 2021-2022 Altman Program invites the Miami University community to explore the persistence of racism in its cultural, political, and institutional forms. What is the history of race as an idea and a social category? How did it transform systems of law, administration, and representation into vehicles for subjugating entire groups of people? How does racism work today? What is its relation to systems of caste and meritocracy? To citizenship and mobility? How can emerging humanities scholarship help us interrogate its evolution and frustrating persistence? And what measures can we take to create a more inclusive and equitable society?

Geoffrion Family Fellows get to know faculty at meals, coffee hours, and discussions with distinguished visiting intellectuals. They also produce an independent scholarly project and give a short lecture on it to a sizable audience of mostly faculty members—and they collaborate on a project that translates the value of the Altman group’s research for the public.

Although Chima is not yet certain of what she will be researching, she expects to examine social justice movements as an antithesis to hierarchical systems. "Different cultures and people have allowed their societies and systems to be shaped by concepts such as justice and law. I hope to analyze this phenomenon to understand how these systems came to be and the components they therefore require to break or rebuild oppressive systems."

For Chima, the GFF is also a natural pathway to her future career. "I hope to eventually work in the Middle East and Punjab to help bring justice to those experiencing human rights violations or for those who have been outcast by their government, and I strongly believe being a Geoffrion Fellow will provide valuable insight which will further help me in reaching my goals," she said.

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