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A Focus on Fellowships: KLI’s 2014 Research Fellowship Recipients

Posted February 19, 2015 in KLI Research, News

By Pema Donyo ‘17

Each year, the Kravis Leadership Institute offers three research fellowships to Claremont McKenna students with a research topic related to leadership. The three KLI research fellowships include the Leadership Thesis Fellowship, Social Sector Research Fellowship, and the Leadership Research Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, students are granted $1000 and an additional travel stipend of up to $1000 for reimbursement of travel related to the research project. With the financial fellowship, students will have more time to spend on leadership research during the course of the year.

The Leadership Research Fellowship

This year, the Leadership Research Fellowship recipient was Chifeng “Sherry” Chen ‘16. Her project is titled, “Investigating the Leadership Mechanisms Behind Hong Kong’s ‘Occupy Central’ Protests.” Chen grew up in Shenzhen, China, the closest city to Hong Kong.

“This movement is different than traditional social movements,” Chen says. “There are also anti-protests within the city.” While the Western coverage of the protests has been pro-democratic, Chen also acknowledges that much of the local Hong Kong media believes political instability should not be added. In fact, social protests are not common at all in Chinese schools.

Chen notes a growing dissatisfaction from Hong Kong citizens which is more Western in mentality. Even so, many in Hong Kong remain fearful of instability in the government. Extensive archival research will be completed to learn about any previous large-scale protests in Hong Kong and the leadership structure in previous movements.

The fellowship provides her with the incentive and funding she needs to be involved with social movement research while she works with Professor Aseema Sinha. Chen also plans to travel to China and interview citizens in Hong Kong to learn more about local attitudes towards the protests. The interviews will examine the leadership involved in the social movement and the “invisible hand” which caused the horizontal organization structure.

The Leadership Thesis Fellowship

The Leadership Thesis Fellowship supports student thesis research on projects related to leadership and is only open to seniors. The thesis fellowship chosen for this year is “Malnutrition: How Community-Based Innovations and Management Schemes Impact Public Health Policies in Kenya and Nepal” by Elham Ali ’15.

Ali’s project investigates how consumer-led interventions on a country’s health policies have affected national policies in both Kenya and Nepal. She will explore the different extents to which the enterprises succeeded in reducing the effects of malnutrition, and she will seek to understand the factors that support an environment for innovative public policies.

Ali says her goal for the project is for her work to “lead to policy and program development action for the delivery of community nutritional services.” With her financial grant, she will have the funds available to pay for her transportation and lodging while conducting interviews in Los Angeles with Nepalese refugees, as well as Kenyan scholars and advocates. The interviews will serve as additional assessments of the community-led innovations.

In the long term, she wishes to “project the future trends of malnutrition in resource-limited in the next five years.” After her data analysis is complete, she hopes to scale up the consumer-led approaches into policies.

The Social Sector Research Fellowship

The Social Sector Research Fellowship supports research related to entrepreneurship and the social sector. Samantha LaPierre ‘15’s project, “Entrepreneurial Education and Training Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa,” analyzes training programs that focus on a wide range of programs, some of which include entrepreneurial education.

Much of her college experience has provided her with the appropriate experience to tackle such a project. Her inspiration for the research comes in part from her part-time internship with INJAZ Al-Arab two summers ago. As an intern, she worked on securing grants from corporations. She drafted, edited, and submitted grants for the same training initiatives covered in her research. As an IR major focusing her studies on the Middle East, as well as a student of Arabic since her freshman year, she is academically prepared as well.

She began her research before drafting her fellowship proposal, as she was already conducting research with Professor Kristen Fabbe. LaPierre had examined programs that support individual entrepreneurs. Some of the training programs cater to a certain profession, while others involve general work-force readiness. The programs are also implemented in a variety of settings, such as public schools.

“There’s very low female labor force participation,” LaPierre says. “By supporting entrepreneurial initiatives, you can empower women.” Her research examines how the training programs affect both genders, but in relation to one another. This topic will be explored in further length after she travels to the Middle East and distributes the survey she developed.

The qualitative survey, designed through Qualtrics, is designed differently for participants and funders. Funders are representatives of the multinational corporations, she explains. In addition, some angel investors also help fund the programs. Some of the questions she’ll be examining include, “How effective was this in strengthening your entrepreneurship skills? What skills did you gain?”

“One of the weaknesses of the training initiatives,” LaPierre adds, “is that it’s hard to cater to what everyone needs. It’s impossible to make one perfect program.” Yet she emphasizes the impact of such programs in Middle Eastern and North African societies. “Entrepreneurial education economically empowers people.”

For many college students, the chance to conduct original research is rare. Many thesis papers and research projects use existing research within their chosen field, but these three fellowship recipients are able to develop their own unique research.

The enthusiasm each fellowship recipient had for their projects was infectious. Not only am I excited to hear about the developments of each project once the reports are finished, I also know each fellowship will leave meaningful contributions to the expanding world of leadership research.