Three students receive Philip J. Otis Fellowships

Bates College students from Maine, Guatemala and Tennessee have received Philip J. Otis Fellowships to support research into the relationships among individuals, societies and nature, the college Dean of the Faculty’s office has announced.

The 2005 Otis recipients are Lindsy Blazej, a junior from Dixmont, Maine, who will investigate “ecovillages” in Europe; Carlos Challen Willemsen, a sophomore from Guatemala City, who will research traditional uses of plants by indigenous people in the Peruvian Andes; and Andrea Wolf, a junior from Nashville, who will examine the cultural significance of textiles made by the Aymara people of the Central Andes.

Blazej’s project is titled Searching for Sustainability: An Exploration of European Ecovillages. Ecovillages are settlements designed to support a full range of human activities with the least impact on the natural environment. Blazej will stay at six of these intentional communities throughout Europe to explore what makes them sustainable (or not), what motivates their inhabitants and how different cultures have adapted the concept of sustainability. Finally, she will evaluate how effectively these villages serve as a model for global sustainability.

Titled Quechua Ethnobotany in the Peruvian Andes, Willemsen’s project will take him to Cuzco, in the Peruvian Andes. There he will visit villages of the native Quechua people and conduct ethnobotanical observations, studying their relationships to the plant life around them and their traditional uses of plants as medicine and food.

For a project called Aymara Culture: Textiles and the Environment, Wolf will travel in the vast, high Central Andean plateau called the “altiplano.” She will use interviews, photography and observation to study the traditional weavings of the Aymara indigenous group. Wolf will examine how woven textiles symbolize Andean cosmology and express the wider relationship of communities with the environment; current changes in Aymara culture; and the impacts of tourism and globalization on textile design and production.

Established in 1996 by Margaret V.B. and C. Angus Wurtele, the Philip J. Otis Endowment commemorates their son, Philip, a member of the Bates class of 1995. A park ranger, Otis died attempting to rescue an injured climber on Mount Rainier.

Otis was deeply concerned with nurturing a sense of responsibility for the natural environment. The Otis Endowment sponsors opportunities for study, exploration and reflection by students, faculty and other members of the Bates community. The endowment also supports an annual lectureship on environmental issues and the spiritual and moral dimensions of ecology.

Each year a small number of students, usually two to five, are selected as Otis Fellows to receive grants between $2,000 and $5,000 to support off-campus projects that explore an environmental and/or eco-spiritual topic. Otis projects typically involve substantial off-campus research or reflection, usually accomplished during the summer or a Short Term leave.

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