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Three 2007 Berkeley graduates will make an impact internationally as this year’s winners of the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize. Sun Lee will document the experiences of those who lived through atrocities that accompanied independence in East Timor. Senary Yitbarek will promote biodiversity and farmers’ economic security in Brazil. And Irene Chemtal Mungo will strengthen pediatric AIDS/HIV education in Kenya.
The Stronach Prize supports intellectual and creative pursuits that enhance social awareness and the public good. Ambitious graduating seniors whose studies relate to the arts and humanities — broadly defined — propose projects that build on their undergraduate work at Berkeley. Prize recipients are selected by a distinguished panel of faculty, researchers and artists and are provided as much as $25,000 each to cover project costs, materials, and living expenses for up to one year.
“The Stronach Prize gives students a wonderful opportunity to stretch themselves. It exemplifies the ideals of inquiry and engagement,” says Dean of Arts and Humanities and Stronach Prize selection committee chair Janet Broughton.
Established by Berkeley Professor of Architecture Raymond Lifchez, the Stronach Prize celebrates the achievements of his late wife. Trained in art history, Judith Lee Stronach was a journalist for Amnesty International, an East Bay poetry teacher, and a patron of numerous arts, education, and charitable organizations. The Stronach Prize commemorates her commitment to lifelong intellectual and creative growth.
“Ray has shown tremendous imagination in designing this prize, great generosity in funding it, and personal dedication to its ideals — ideals that Judith Lee Stronach shared with him. It’s a marvelous tribute to her own distinctive career,” says Broughton. “The Stronach Prize is dedicated to the kinds of values we hold dear in the arts and humanities: understanding the world’s cultures, engaging with ethical values, responding to differences and challenges around us, and engaging with issues through the arts. It shows the way these values are cultivated and put into action by people with a wide range of callings.”
Sun Lee: Remembering in East Timor
Sun Lee will collect and publish the accounts of witnesses and survivors of the violence surrounding East Timor’s vote for full independence from Indonesia in 1999. In doing so, she will give voice to their largely undocumented experiences.
As an undergraduate with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies, Lee focused on human rights issues, especially the aftermath of mass atrocity. In Rwanda, she conducted research on the country’s community justice process. In Cambodia, she assisted the Center for Social Development and examined the expression of collective memory. In South Africa, she spent a semester studying post-apartheid and post-colonial literature and film. On campus, she worked with UC Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center director David Cohen, who will now serve as her East Timor project mentor.
With the support from the Stronach Prize, Lee will learn Bhasa Indonesia to be able to conduct interviews in the local language while in East Timor. She wants her published piece to inform a wide audience and will incorporate art — her own drawings, photos, digital illustrations, and other work — to increase its appeal.
“This reflects my ultimate passion to use art and the visual culture to bring human rights issues closer to our senses,” Lee wrote in her application for the Stronach Prize.
Senay Yitbarek: Preserving Biodiversity in Brazil
Building on his classroom and internship experiences, Senay Yitbarek will help both small farmers and Brazilian forests benefit from environmentally sound practices. This new development studies graduate will use his Portuguese language skills and cultural knowledge to help preserve biologically diverse forest fragments in the Pontal do Paranapanemea region of Brazil, west of Sao Paulo.
As an undergraduate, Yitbarek studied agricultural ecology and rural development in Latin America. He also learned about Brazil’s MST (Movimento dos Tabalhadores Sem Terra) movement, or landless peasantry movement. He then traveled to Brazil to examine agro-ecological practices firsthand and intern with small farms and the Institute for Ecological Research (IPE).
With funds from the Stronach Prize, Yitbarek will enhance joint MST and IPE efforts to sustain biodiversity. He plans to create an environmental education center within IPE’s office to provide information about the benefits of ecological practices. He also will develop an environmental education curriculum, help increase the number of farmers who dedicate land to agro-forestry buffer zones, and host exchanges about forestry practices between small farmers and state and interstate groups.
Once this project is complete, Yitbarek wants to delve even more deeply into ecological management and the preservation of biodiversity in rural communities. He hopes to return to Berkeley to earn a master’s degree in environmental science, policy, and management.
Irene Chemtai Mungo: Guiding Community Health in Kenya
Whether in the Bay Area or her native Kenya, Irene Chemtai Mungo has had the same goal: combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education and support. She helped coordinate family and adolescent HIV support services at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She gave presentations about AIDS in Kenya through the Multicultural Speakers Bureau at Berkeley’s International House. And she went to Mombasa, Kenya, as a 2006 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow to research the impact of HIV/AIDS on that community.
With a Berkeley chemistry degree in hand, Mungo plans to attend medical school. But first she will provide critical health education at the AIDS Research and Family Care Clinic in Mombasa, where poverty, joblessness, limited education, and cultural stigma are all obstacles to treating and caring for children with HIV/AIDS.
Mungo will develop a health resource guidebook in both English and Swahili to help families better understand HIV/AIDS and provide proper care for children with the disease. Her guidebook will communicate health lessons through simple language and the drawings of local children. Mungo will also organize educational workshops for caregivers and adolescent patients, bring presentations on HIV/AIDS and other health topics to area schools, and sponsor an essay contest in which students can propose ways to address health issues in their lives and their community.
Months of research, writing, planning, and outreach efforts lie ahead, but Mungo feels well prepared. She noted, “My background in science will enable me to take on the technical aspects of this project …. and translate the scientific information to a format accessible to a lay audience, while the breadth of my coursework will enable me to appreciate the challenges of this work.”
Click here for a story about last year's Stronach Prize winners.
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