FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  Date:  June 6, 2001

                                                                        Contact:  Lezli Austen

UIS students receive Illinois Humanities Council awards

SPRINGFIELD – Two University of Illinois at Springfield students are among nine recipients of scholarships from the 2001 Illinois Humanities Council’s Community Scholars Program, which makes awards of up to $6,000 to students majoring in humanities disciplines at state-supported colleges and universities. In return, the students volunteer at least 30 hours during the term of the award at a community-based organization, connecting their areas of study with the needs of the organization.

Current UIS recipients are Joe Carrier and Mahnaz Ganji. Carrier, a junior in the English program, is working with the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area. Awarded $4,000, his project involves developing and marking a new prairie trail in Panther Creek, formerly known as Site M. This area has three horse trails and several bicycle trails, but no handicapped accessible trail.

“Because I have a grandfather in a wheelchair, mobility issues were very important to me,” said Carrier, adding “I wanted this trail to be accessible by everyone and interesting to all age groups.”

Carrier will develop interpretative guides and written materials for self-guided tours. He will also design and implement a plan for public education that combines work in wildlife interpretation, literature, writing, and knowledge of natural resources. Carrier plans to continue at UIS and work toward a master’s degree in environmental humanities, with a goal of becoming an on-site naturalist.

Ganji, a graduate student in international development, was awarded $5,500. She will work with Friends of Refugees of Springfield to study the refugee experience in the Sabirabad refugee camp in Azerbaijan from June until August, including their literature, community, culture, and values. On Ganji’s return, results of her research will be presented to various audiences in Springfield and Chicago.

Ganji’s interest in refugees was peaked last summer when she worked as an intern for the U.S. Committee for Refugees in Washington, D.C.

“My long-term goal is to work for, and with, refugees and displaced people,” said Ganji, adding that working toward her Ph.D., possibly in urban planning and refugee camp design, will help her achieve that goal. Ganji has also been offered an internship with the Institute for Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands. The Institute is interested in publishing Ganji’s narratives of refugee experiences.