Fulbright Scholar Lauren Cloward
Lauren Cloward ’16, from Seattle, double majored in environmental studies and political science. She will travel to Burkina Faso to do research on how different factors affect agricultural decisions, food and water security, and vulnerability.
When was your “aha moment” when you realized you could be a Fulbright candidate?
It was something that was on my radar, especially after Global Fellows. My biggest issue was how do I come up with a project? What exactly do I want to do? And, that’s really where all of my experiences at Santa Clara and all the support I had from professors and everyone else came into play. They were there to support me to figure out what I was thinking, what exactly I wanted to get out of it, and then help me get to that point.
Right after graduation, I was still working at Santa Clara, as a research assistant for Dr. Chris Bacon and on a research project investigating on-farm food loss with the Food and Agribusiness Institute.
With Dr. Bacon, I was working on creating new methods to measure food and water security in Northern Nicaragua, for an NSF-funded project. That gave me the idea for my Fulbright project. I realized that I could use similar methodology in a different setting, by tailoring and adapting the survey we wrote and revised to a new cultural and geographical context. What I was proposing to do was to study the relationships between food and water security and their impacts on indigenous coping mechanisms, especially in the face of climate change. I want to analyze how these coping strategies, access to water, and local government institutions affect agricultural decisions, food and water security, and vulnerability. While I’m in Burkina Faso, I will be creating and administering a household survey, conducting key informant interviews, mapping out the community water systems, and sharing my results with local farmers, officials, and other stakeholders in two case study communities in the Plateau Central Region.
What sort of “high impact” experiences did you have at SCU and how did they prepare you for being a Fulbright?
I was a Global Fellow. Erika Francks—one of the other people that was awarded a Fulbright this year—and I both went to Kolkata. We worked for the Association for Social and Environmental Development, giving environmental education and documenting the organization’s Green Rhinos Program in an informational video to increase fundraising efforts. The Program creates youth nature leaders at local schools through a transformational leadership process. Students participate in leadership trainings and implement their own environmental projects in their communities, including one where kids were planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change and potential flooding from tropical storms.
I’m very grateful for my time at Santa Clara, which was a very formative time for me. I feel like I always had this general passion but was able to focus that during my four years, and I attribute that to the programs that I’ve been in, like Global Fellows, and my experiences with the Food and Agribusiness Institute and the Environmental Studies and Sciences department. The Global Fellows Program was one of the reasons I was drawn to Santa Clara in the first place. These experiences were invaluable to getting to the place I am now and having that wider perspective and wider world view. I’ve been exposed to many different cultures and ways of life and had direct experience working with communities, which gives faces and stories to larger problems beyond just hard facts. They’ve shaped how I approach research and have taught me to be flexible and adaptable in a variety of situations.
Where did you observe SCU’s values most in this process?
My experience with action research or community-based research was that you are serving the people whose community you’re researching. You’re providing them with information to support their decision-making, and you’re working together to find solutions, as opposed to just assuming that you know best. That can be problematic with research and academia, but I think Santa Clara does a great job of making students aware that people are experts on their own lives, their own experiences, and their own communities. The Jesuit ideals of conscientiousness and compassion lend themselves well to cultural competency and understanding, which is a cornerstone of the Fulbright program.
How would you describe the responsibility you were given as an undergrad at SCU?
Fulbright is very self-starting. You really have to take initiative and to have that determination. Santa Clara definitely prepares students to be able to do that, to develop that confidence to take those sorts of steps, like living abroad, living in a new place, in a developing country, through opportunities to travel, work in the community, volunteer, and be involved on campus. There’s a large focus on seeing how you can use your own skills and your own education and your own privilege to make a difference, and to work on problems that will be facing our generation for years to come. Santa Clara gives students a well-rounded education, which makes them more globally minded but also more community-minded.
What sort of support did you get along the way?
One of the things that I love about Santa Clara was having that individualized support and really knowing your professors and being able to make those relationships and those connections.
The environmental studies department is like a second home to me. I have so many people, both my professors and others in the department that I got to know, that have been great mentors and provided a lot of support to me throughout the application processes, letters of recommendation, and things like that.
I actually applied for the Fulbright last year and was an alternate. So, I decided to apply again this year and made some changes to my application with help from Leslie Gray. She has connections to Burkina Faso, which is how I got my letter of affiliation in the first place.
I also took a fellowship class that opened my eyes to all of the possibilities available after graduation and was instrumental in teaching me how to write winning applications and market my skills. Dr. Leilani Miller, director of the Office of Fellowships, encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright once I graduated and for the Rhodes Scholarship this past year. I was a finalist for the Rhodes, and I know my success this year was due in large part to her guidance and those at FAI and ESS pushing me to be my best.
I’m from Seattle and my dad is an architect and he focuses a lot on sustainability, so I’ve always grown up around that and had an interest in the environment. After I declared my Environmental Studies major, I became intrigued by the policy side of things and how everything is interrelated and connect, and that’s why I’m drawn to the interdisciplinary field of geography.
But, I would say that specifically my interest in food-related issues came about when I was selected as an Oxfam America Change Leader.
Oxfam America is a national non-profit but they also have a consortium of organizations internationally which work on righting the wrongs of hunger, poverty, and injustice. I went to a leadership training the summer going into my sophomore year in Boston. One of their big campaigns is the Grow Campaign, focusing on food-related issues—both how they link to the environment, and how they link to workers’ rights. That caught my attention, and at the leadership training, we participated in a Hunger Banquet. You receive a low, middle, or high income card with a real person’s story that determines what meal you’ll be getting for the evening, based on global poverty statistics That was a really impactful experience, and the moment that I started becoming more involved in that particular field.
When I got back to Santa Clara, I founded our Oxfam America Club and then, from there just kept getting involved in other similar activities with research and with our Food and Agribusiness Institute. I went on an immersion trip, looking at sustainable agriculture in Cuba and then working with the Institute as an events and outreach coordinator. That’s how my interest in the field began.