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Keegan Fellowship winner to travel across six continents after graduation exploring the meaning of citizenship and democracy

Mar. 9, 2010, 10:37 AM

Wyatt Smith, graduating senior, Ingram Scholar and president of Vanderbilt Student Government, has been named this year’s recipient of Vanderbilt University’s Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship.

The goal of the fellowship is to develop future leaders through world travel and experiential learning. Graduating seniors awarded the fellowship have the opportunity to pursue an idea or an issue, about which they are impassioned, in the context of daily life in communities around the world.

Smith, who is from Reform, Ala., will graduate in May from Peabody College with majors in human and organizational development and political science. He also carries a minor in economics and a concentration in public policy. He has also been nominated as a finalist to represent his graduating class on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust as the 2010 Young Alumni Trustee, a determination that will be made through an election later this spring.

“I am humbled by the selection committee’s confidence in my proposal and potential for growth through this opportunity,” said Smith. “In my year of travel, I plan to expose myself to the ways in which democracies prosper and suffer. I will compare and contrast democratic tensions around the world during my journey, and I expect to meet a range of people from different viewpoints and persuasions. Hopefully, I will develop and refine ideas for strengthening American institutions through the process.”

In his project, titled “What Constitutes Empowerment? Exploring the Global Intersection of Democracy, Poverty, and Citizenship,” Smith plans to travel to democracies spanning six continents while exploring the pursuits of religious freedom, economic opportunity, educational access and political participation in free societies across the world. By combining personal interviews, informal observations and direct interaction with both policymakers and disadvantaged individuals, he plans to outline “democratic goals” of minority groups, structural barriers limiting empowerment and effective strategies for correcting policy failures leading to disenfranchisement.

While his travel itinerary is still in development, Smith’s current plan includes explorations of post-apartheid social structures in South Africa, tenuous balances of security and equity in Israel and the question of equal access to economic markets in India.

Students must apply for the fellowship by completing an application, submitting a resume and letters of recommendation and proposing a plan of study/travel. A committee of alumni, faculty and staff selects the winner.

For more information about the Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship, visit or contact Associate Dean of Students Sandy Stahl at 615-322-6400.

Media Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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