Centre College graduate Parker Lawson ’15 third in a row to win Rotary Global Scholarship

Posted by Centre News in Academics, History, International Studies, News, Phi Beta Kappa, Spanish, Study Abroad 10 May 2016

Parker LawsonFor the third year in a row, a Centre College graduate has won a prestigious Rotary Global Grant Scholarship for graduate study abroad. Parker Lawson ’15, a Spanish and international studies double major from Prospect, Ky., plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge beginning fall of 2016.

Lawson’s move to England will not require crossing a great distance, since he is currently a Fulbright Scholar in Spain. Under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State program that places English Teaching Assistants, or ETAs, all across the globe, he is teaching history and international relations at a bilingual public high school in Madrid.

No stranger to Spain, Lawson studied at the University of Lleida in Catalonia in spring 2014, focusing on Spanish philology and international relations.

The Rotary Global Grant is valued at over $40,000, and recipients must propose projects that have sustainable and measurable outcomes in Rotary’s several areas of focus and involve forming international partnerships that respond to real community needs. Lawson’s grant, as did the previous two, comes from Rotary District 6710, which includes central and western Kentucky.

Lawson hopes his studies at Cambridge, regarded as the top history program in the world, will prepare him for a career in the area of peace and conflict prevention and resolution.

“In the midst of the largest refugee migration of our generation,” Lawson says, “it’s crucial to devise creative solutions with respect to the context and histories of local communities.”

To this end, Lawson intends to study the era of the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, when thousands of Spaniards sought refuge across the globe.

“I hope to understand how processes of conflict resolution did or did not work in Spain and to consider the contemporary consequences of the country’s recent past,” he says. “The timing of the project is interesting because now Spaniards find themselves on the receiving end of an influx of refugees.”

Lawson will be following in the footsteps of his mentor, Assistant Professor of History Jonathon Earle, who earned his Ph.D. in history at the venerable university founded in 1209 that is the fourth oldest in the world.

It was Earle who fostered Lawson’s research skills, primarily during a class visit to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where Lawson researched records from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and the Consulate in Barcelona.

“I was impressed by Parker’s ability to think critically about historical argument and practice,” Earle says, “a skill that is necessary for pursuing historical research.”

He’s confident that Lawson’s research will have a positive, real-world impact.

“His topic has the potential to help us rethink a contentious period in modern Spain’s political history,” Earle suggests. “Previous studies have focused mostly on the centralizing politics of Francisco Franco, but Parker’s work will show how peripheral communities used language politics to reassert novel forms of authority and legitimacy.”

Lawson’s distinguished career at Centre includes membership in Phi Beta Kappa, along with the Order of Omega, Sigma Delta Pi, Pi Sigma Alpha and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. He was also active in the Bonner Scholars Program, working as a policy intern and with Centre’s After School Program, which is led by Centre students and serves children of local immigrant and migrant families for whom English is a second language.

Like Lawson, Centre’s two recent District 6710 Rotary winners also studied in England.

Inaugural recipient Michael Fryar ’14 studied at the London School of Economics and is now a research fellow with the Evidence for Policy Design program at Harvard’s Center for International Development.

Emily Stephenson ’15, last year’s winner, is completing studies at the University of Sheffield in the areas of disease prevention and treatment. She plans further doctoral study with the goal of working in a global health organization.

For his part, Lawson anticipates working in a college or university setting, inspired by his own professors at Centre, who, he says, “demonstrate a remarkable versatility as excellent teachers and scholars at the top of their fields, all while making a difference for good in their communities, from local to global.”

He adds, “Like them, I hope to use my academic interests to address real-world problems.”

by Michael Strysick
May 10, 2016

Photo courtesy of Casandra Campeas

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