FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        Date: April 4, 2002

Contact: Donna McCracken, 206-6716

UIS graduate student receives IREX fellowship

SPRINGFIELD – Mahnaz Ganji, a graduate student in the Individual Option program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has been awarded the prestigious 2002-2003 Individual Advanced Research Opportunities fellowship by the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).  The fellowship is funded partly by the U.S. Department of State, IREX, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Ganji’s proposal was selected in this year’s national program, which was extremely competitive.  The award will underwrite a three-month fellowship to study conditions in refugee camps in Azerbaijan, a small country in southwestern Asia bordered by Iran, Russia, Armenia, and the Caspian Sea. Her fellowship starts in September.

Ganji stated that her proposal was not complex: “I have two questions. First, why are the refugees’ living conditions still the same today as on the first day of their displacement? And second, given the fact that Azerbaijan is a major oil producer in the region and not an OPEC member, how should U.S. relations be modified after the events of September 11?”

Ganji’s interest in working with refugees grew out of a summer 2000 internship with the U.S. Committee for Refugees in Washington, D.C. That interest was fostered last summer when she received a scholarship from the Illinois Humanities Council’s Community Scholarships Program, which made it possible for her to study first-hand the refugee experience in the Sabirabad camp in Azerbaijan.  “The first thing I plan to do once in Azerbaijan is to rent a car and drive to the refugee camps, with my camera,” she said. “I miss them so much, as they are part of my life now.”

IREX, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, administers programs between the United States and the countries of Eastern Europe, the New Independent States, Asia, and the Near East.