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The road less taken: travel scholarships at Hanszen, Wiess

travel-scholarships-virginia-liu
Virginia Liu / Thresher

By Spring Chenjp     3/26/24 10:56pm

Touring a tobacco farm in Cuba, eating at a Michelin-starred bistro in Paris or visiting urban gardens in Spain: unique experiences abound when venturing beyond the hedges. Though the Rice Office of Study Abroad offers a variety of scholarships for students interested in academic travel, lesser-known are Hanszen and Wiess Colleges’ travel scholarships. 

Wiess College administers the Dr. John E. Parish Fellowship for Summer Travel, which is available to all students. The Parish Fellowship was first awarded in 1982 after  the death of John Parish, English professor and former Wiess College Resident Associate.

Funded partially by the Parish Fellowship, Kenna Dixon spent the summer after her freshman year touring urban gardens in six different countries.



Dixon, who is majoring in biosciences, said her interest in urban gardens came from her conservation biology class that focused on managing biodiversity in urban settings. 

“[At] first, I wanted to do Spain and visit the parks and gardens,” Dixon said. “I would visit those, try to talk to the people that work there and manage them and then reflect. I wanted to go to places like city parks, historical gardens and things like that, understanding how people represent biodiversity and beauty at the same time.”

Dixon submitted a budget alongside her proposed travel plan, including airfare, food, lodging, daily activities and admission to gardens. She said the fellowship covered the majority, but not all, of her travel.

“I had originally designed for the fellowship to be, I think, a month and a half to two months,” Dixon said. “Then I had my own funds, so I was able to combine them and travel for a lot longer.”

As she hoped, Dixon’s travel included speaking to urban gardeners.

“I got to speak to, for example, a community garden organizer in Prague. He talked to me about how the city was really interested in what he was doing. They’re giving him space in this brown field, which is land that was previously contaminated.”

Though much of Dixon’s travel was planned, she said chance encounters led to her visiting additional sites, such as meeting another American student interested in ecology.

“She tells me about this project by a local university, and it’s literally exactly what my project is on.” Dixon said. “People design their own plans and plots of a garden, on how to make it biodiverse and beautiful at the same time, and ideas along that line … So I went and I visited that, and I spoke to the Ph.D. student who was involved in that project.”

Dixon will present a summary of her research in April at the annual Wiess College awards ceremony.

Hanszen College’s scholarships are restricted to Hanszenites and come from endowed gifts, according to magister Fabiola López-Durán.  While the Richard and Lisa Smith Travel Scholarship funds students spending a semester or year abroad, the Ed and Carol Monarchi Scholarship is available for any length of academic travel, which Beth Buchanan ’21 received prior to her death.

“[Buchanan] had the opportunity to spend a summer in Scandinavia,” López-Durán said. “She was well on her way to becoming a scholar in organizational power and discrimination-related issues [and went to] Sweden and Denmark, countries with a high rate of gender equality.”

In an email to the Thresher, López-Durán said Buchanan’s psychology research, which began during her travels, was recently presented by her former Ph.D. advisor at a conference at Rice. Other awardees of the Monarchi Scholarship include students enrolled in a course with a travel component, such as HART 304: A Revolution from Within with a spring break trip to Cuba, and Unlearning Paris, taught at the Rice Global Paris Center.

The Klaus and Eugenia Weisenberger Award is unique in funding students interested in learning about regional cuisines. Named in honor of two former Hanszen magisters, it was established in 2006.

“A student could visit a famous [restaurant] in Japan or a Michelin star restaurant in Paris, [and] spend time in the kitchen of the restaurant,” López-Durán said. 

Hanszen travel scholarships are selected by the magisters, resident advisors and college coordinator, with input from the student awards committee. Like the Parish fellowship, students receiving the Hanszen fellowships deliver a presentation to the college upon their return. Preference is given to applicants who have not traveled abroad before, according to López-Durán.

“This year we received an amazing application by an international student who has never been outside of Mexico or Texas, and has been dreaming about studying abroad in Italy, has been taking Italian classes — one of the best applications I have read,” López-Durán said. 

“I had a lot of fun doing it,” Dixon said. “[The fellowship] let me have a lot of independence. It truly is just a travel scholarship for your own design and introspection, and it can be what you want it to be.”



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