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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005

Peace scholarship looks to resourceful students


Special to The Japan Times

The Rotary Foundation, a century-old, worldwide benevolent group of over one million business and professional leaders, has a new scholarship on offer. Rotarians have long provided a variety of international exchange opportunities, but their newest project, the Rotary World Peace Scholarship, is committed to seeing that peace efforts get circulated throughout the world.

First awarded in 2002, the Peace Scholarship was established to educate leaders in government and the humanitarian field who embrace a commitment to spread goodwill, assist in conflict resolution, and promote international understanding. "If we had started this scholarship 50 years ago, when the other Rotary scholarships began," muses Rotary Foundation trustee Fumio Tamamura, "I think the world would be a better place now."

Rotary World Peace Scholarship recipients enjoy two years of Master's study hosted by one of the Rotary Centers for International Studies situated on university campuses throughout the world. International Christian University (ICU) is home to Japan's Rotary Center. Currently, fellows from 32 different countries have taken up residence either at ICU or one of the other centers around the world including the United States, the U.K., France, Australia and Argentina.

Distinguishing it from the recently burgeoning numbers of MA peace studies programs, the Rotary fellowship completely covers tuition, living, and travel expenses, totaling up to $70,000 for the two years, according to Howard Chang, Rotary International Senior Media Relations Specialist for Asia/ Pacific.

The program also includes a three-month practical training session with an NGO or peace-related organization. During the course of study, ICU fellows receive community exposure by attending lectures, travelling to Hiroshima, and joining local discussion panels, all supported by an extensive professional Rotarian network. Nonetheless, Tamamura hastens to add, the program "tries not to infringe on study time too much."

Applicants typically have excellent academic credentials, but their resumes also come packed with several years of peace-related NGO work experience, fluency in at least two languages, and a practical conception of how they intend to make a difference in the world. Kazuo Takahashi, director of the Rotary Peace Center at ICU, describes fellows as "resourceful," a quality that he says "almost guarantees they will have active roles in the world community after graduation."

The Rotary Foundation is prepared to bestow as many as 70 fellowships annually. Currently, it falls well short of that figure due to a "lack of eligible candidates," states Tamamura. "People don't always understand what we are looking for," he adds. The Rotary discourages applicants fresh out of college. Rather, it seeks to attract mid-career candidates who have sufficient work experience, proof of commitment to community service, and international exposure. Getting the word out, however, has proved challenging. Nai-Hua Wu, a student from Taiwan and one of ICU's six 2005-2007 awardees, admitted the toughest part of the application process in her case was convincing the judges that her internships were sufficient to fulfill the stringent work experience requirements. Never mind that her resume was covered in awards and academic achievements. "I had to convince them that I had the potential to do great things in the future," Wu says.

Graduates from the first two classes of fellows have already moved on to jobs that make use of the award. A quick perusal reveals an international list of educators and activists, with published works ranging from recycling to eradication of land mines in Sri Lanka.

But what about that recipient who went on the join the Austrian Armed forces? "Well, the fellowship doesn't come with strings attached," shrugs Tamamura. "Fellows are free to go and do what they want. But, we hope that they will eventually provide a pacifying influence."

The unofficial cutoff age for scholarship applications hovers near 40, but Tamamura, nearly twice that age, proves that peacekeeping can be a lifelong ambition. Asked why he found himself so involved in the Rotary's award, he answered simply, "It's my responsibility, because there are too many war-mongering people in the world, but not enough peacekeeping people."



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