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Arts Administration Student Wins Rotary Peace Fellowship

November 6, 2013 —

Bobbie BigbyArts Administration online graduate student Bobbie Bigby is one of three Americans out of thousands of applicants from around the world selected to receive a fully funded academic Rotary International Peace Fellowship to study the role of the arts in promoting peace and conflict reconciliation. She will spend 15 months at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, working alongside fellowship winners from Yemen, Burma, Japan and other nations in researching the economic, artistic and culture components of post-war and genocide recovery, health efforts in battling diseases such as polio, and grassroots community development for nations in need. “Specifically, this program involves a focused internship and research thesis on how art can convey healing in ways other mediums cannot,” Bigby explains. 

The Rotary International fellowship award is given to those who have shown an ability to have a positive impact on world peace and conflict resolution throughout their careers.

Before coming to Drexel, Bigby worked as an immigration and refugee language program manager for the YMCA, working with Southeast Asian refugees in her hometown of Tulsa, Okla. She then spent a year and a half in Cambodia as a sustainable tourism teaching language program consultant for Cambodian Living Arts and a refugee social work programmer and teacher. 

“The Cambodian Civil War in the 1970s devastated the country and led to a four-year genocide, during which 2 million people were killed by political executions, disease, starvation, and forced labor,” says Bigby. “When I was there a couple of years ago, I worked with non-profit organizations focused on using youth arts and cultural programming for peace building. The effects of the genocide are still very prevalent. The United Nations held criminal trials for the genocides in the 70s, but most Cambodians viewed them as ineffective. On the other hand, the work we were doing in conveying peace through arts was making a direct impact on the young people we engaged with. I realized that it was the work I truly loved doing and I came back determined to make a career out of it.”

Bigby’s next step was to enroll at Drexel. “I wanted a quality program that met both my career goals and geographical needs,” she says. “Drexel’s online Arts Administration graduate program allowed me stay in Oklahoma and continue my work as a migration and refugee services assistant for Tulsa Catholic Diocese Charities.”

After completing the program in Australia, Bigby plans to return to Drexel to complete her Arts Administration degree. “I really admire this program’s faculty,” she says. “Not only have they expanded my education in using art as vehicle for peace building, they were also very helpful and supportive through the yearlong Rotary International fellowship application process. Their goal is to contribute ambassadors of the arts to the world and I look forward to sharing my experiences with them and continue learning from the program.”

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