Michael Harding '18 Awarded Prestigious Fulbright Scholarship

Michael Harding '18 Awarded Prestigious Fulbright Scholarship

Photo of Michael Harding

Fulbright Scholar Michael Harding '18

In collaboration with the Universidad Diego Portales, the class valedictorian will conduct a study surrounding human rights in Chile.

Michael’s pursuit of intellectual curiosity is a prime example of how our students reach for the magis, the more, to advance the common good through the pursuit of knowledge.

— Jocelyn M. Boryczka, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Scholarly, Creative, and Community Engagement

Michael Harding ’18 of Philadelphia, Pa., is the next Fairfield University student to embark on a life-changing opportunity through a Fulbright scholarship, the most prestigious international scholarship awarded in the United States. Harding will travel to Santiago, Chile, to study Chilean culture and society in the context of achieving social healing after overcoming political injustice. His research study is entitled “The Politics of Social Memory: Transitional Justice in Chile.”

As a first-year student back in 2014, Harding first heard about the Fulbright scholarship from his mentor David Crawford, PhD, professor of sociology and anthropology. From that moment, he began planning his path at Fairfield to one day apply. He enrolled in international relations courses with a focus on memory politics, Latin American governments, and transitions to democracy. Harding applied for and was awarded the 2016 Mancini Research Scholarship, one of the Fairfield University Research and Travel Grants, to conduct research and service learning in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was also awarded a grant through the Office of the Provost to work alongside Gayle Alberda, PhD, assistant professor of politics, to study voter attitudes toward alternative voting measures in the United States. Harding presented his findings at the 2018 Midwestern Political Science Association Conference.

“These grants afforded me a unique opportunity to expand and connect with my earlier undergraduate research,” said Harding.

As a Fulbright scholar, Harding will travel to Santiago, Chile for 10 months where he will work alongside Carolina Aguilera, PhD, of the Social Sciences Research Institute (SSRI) at the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, on her postdoctoral research surrounding Chilean social memory connected to the nation’s transition to democracy. During his time in Chile, Harding will interview human rights lawyers who prosecuted former members of Augusto Pinochet’s authoritarian regime for human rights abuse, as well as activists, and conduct research at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. He will also volunteer at the non-profit organization, Hogar de Cristo, founded by Jesuit Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga in 1944, to eliminate poverty and encourage national unity.

“Through inquiry and community engagement,” Harding said, “I will learn about the effects of Pinochet’s dictatorship through the eyes of victims and human rights lawyers to develop a deeper understanding of the work Chileans are doing to reconcile and achieve justice.”

Harding said his decision to apply for the Fulbright stems from being a black man in America. “This is a project that is going to tap into some uncomfortable conversations about trauma,” he said. “I have a personal attachment to this and want to apply it to something that I can actually study and learn from to achieve a real connection that transcends global contexts.”

During his time in Chile, Harding will record and share his experiences through a published journal. He will also assist the Universidad Diego Portales to write an annual report detailing human rights in Chile, and he will present his findings to the faculty and the Fulbright Commission.

“Michael’s pursuit of intellectual curiosity is a prime example of how our students reach for the magis, the more, to advance the common good through the pursuit of knowledge,” said Jocelyn M. Boryczka, PhD, associate vice provost for scholarly, creative, and community engagement. “The track Michael has followed – to engage in scholarly work supported through the Mancini Research Scholarship, to present his findings at the annual Fairfield University Innovative Research Symposium, and to be awarded the esteemed Fulbright Scholarship, is testament to the vibrant spirit and intellectual vitality of Fairfield’s scholarly community.” 

Following his year of service, Michael plans to pursue a joint-degree JD/MPA at Villanova Law School as a Public Interest Scholar.

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