Past Recipients

First offered in 2015, the Sydney Elizabeth Owens Memorial Award supports a current first-, second- or third-year student who has designed with faculty approval or input, a transformative experience. The recipients have defined a creative but workable experience that spans a summer or a semester.

Below are brief synopses of previous recipient proposals.


Mary Garner McGehee

This summer, I’ll be working in Mrida’s office in New Delhi, assisting with marketing, setting up new relationships with vendors, and making trips to the villages to help assess the efficiency of various projects and learn more about how they manage their supply chain. Mrida is an Indian non-profit start-up that connects farmers and entrepreneurs in rural villages in India to urban and Western markets, helping people increase their incomes and make their practices more sustainable. Each village has different projects tailored to the people and needs of the area, but many of their projects are related to solar electrification, sustainable farming initiatives, and female entrepreneurship.

I am excited by this opportunity because Mrida is a start-up organization with just a small full-time staff and so they rely on intern labor for major, substantial projects. Additionally, this experience will inform my Political and Social Thought Honors thesis next year on women’s narratives of development in India.

I am particularly interested in non-profits social businesses, microfinance organizations and social entrepreneurship networks. I selected this experience because I believe in the mission of Mrida. I am eager to learn about the operation of a start-up non-profit. I firmly believe that anyone working in development outside their native country should be conscious of their intended and unintended contributions and impact.


Sibet Parti: Area Program in Poetry Writing and Distinguished Majors Program in English Literature

I am a podcaster and a storyteller. I have my own podcast, Come on, Bet!, that serves as the portfolio of all the audio I produce as an undergrad. The project that I propose begins in August when I will intern with Gimlet Media, the podcast start-up that has revolutionized the form and consumption of audio storytelling. Then in October, I will attend the Werk It Festival in LA, self-described as the “only all-women podcasting festival on the planet.”

Not only am I thrilled by the prospect of engaging with my radio heroes and attending live tapings of podcasts like Modern Love, 2 Dope Queens, and Sooo Many White Guys, but I am equally enthralled by the prospect of working with these podcast revolutionaries and connecting them with TEEJ.

In the fall, I also plan to turn the space under my lofted bunk into a recording studio where I will produce stories that touch the human heart right in the heart of the Academical Village.

The result of my education will be in a podcast mini-series that I will publish on Come on, Bet! and also on TEEJ’s podcast, Independent Study, a podcast that focuses on the anthropological study of the people of UVA and Charlottesville.


Kara Perdue: American Studies

I have been offered a position with a small nonprofit organization in Tibet as an English teacher for a summer tutoring program. Through Pendyi’s free summer English program, I will be teaching about 25 children each weekend. This will be my most important role as Pendyi’s only native English speaker. During the week, the focus will be on creating the teaching materials and filling any role Pendyi needs on their social media and outreach team. Pendyi is a nonprofit, grassroots organization in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China. Pendyi has only been in operation since 2014 after years of efforts and has a very small staff that can be impacted greatly by the additional set of hands that I hope to lend – for eight weeks, from June to August.


Katherine Lang: Urban and Environmental Planning

My goal is to study an area facing rapid urbanization. The project will foster rethinking the use of space in urban areas especially addressing the challenge of regional sprawl that traditionally relied on vehicle transportation.  I hope to expand my understanding of development and how I can play a role in it in the future. There are new urban planning models that are being designed to contravene the known transportation and living congestion challenges.  In addition, I hope to learn more about how urban planning can think through health issues dealing with safe water, designs that help reduce disease-related challenges and cost effective models that can be implemented in developing environments.  During this time, I plan to educate myself in the current understanding, especially as Kenya is one of the innovation leaders on the African continent.  I have a lot to learn from working with those who are far more experienced than I, but I also want to expand my understanding of the roles of organizations like the UN or USAID, versus the roles of countries themselves. I hope to compile a list of books to heighten this learning experience to think critically about my role as a human, and as an American in addressing global issues without imposing my own personal and cultural values on others.