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UNT Insider | April 2010 Issue | UNT student receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

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UNT student receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship


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For the second year in a row, a student in UNT’s Honors College and the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Marsha Sowell, a senior political science major, will receive a stipend of $30,000 each year for three years. She also will receive $10,500 each year as a cost of education allowance, and may receive supplements for travel and computing.

The Graduate Research Fellowships are given to students who plan to earn research-focused master's and doctoral degrees in the science, social science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Approximately 2,000 students who are finishing or have already completed bachelor's degrees at U.S. colleges and universities are awarded the fellowships each year. Sowell is among 75 students from Texas colleges, universities and medical schools who received a fellowship this year. After receiving her bachelor's degree this May, she plans to use her fellowship to earn master's and doctoral degrees in political science with an emphasis in international relations.

Sowell learned about the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program after she enrolled in UNT as an Honors College student. The federally funded program prepares undergraduate students who are the first in their families to attend college, are from economically marginalized families or are members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate education to pursue doctoral study. McNair Scholars are paired with UNT faculty mentors to conduct research. The students often present their research findings at professional conferences. They also undergo intense preparation for graduate school.

Sowell has researched human rights topics with James Meernik, professor of political science, for more than two years. In her primary research, she investigated whether or not Amnesty International reports on human rights violations in specific countries will lead to decreased intensity of civil conflicts.

"I learned that human rights reports make other countries more likely to take action against the countries violating human rights, such as putting sanctions in place," says Sowell, who presented her research in February at the International Studies Association annual convention. She also will present at the Midwest Political Science Association National Conference later this month.

In addition, Sowell is the co-author of articles on the research that were published or accepted for publication in Peace and Conflict 2010 and Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Diana Elrod, director of the McNair Program at UNT, says the program includes "the brightest and the most promising students UNT has to offer."

"In order for someone to stand out in this group, the individual must possess unique attributes. During our first meeting, I sensed Marsha was exceptional and few people would ever cross my path possessing the scholastic ability, sensitivity and determination innate to this young woman," Elrod says. 

James Duban, director of the UNT Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, called Sowell "a credit to the McNair Program, the Honors College, and to the Department of Political Science."

"She has excelled in research-based undergraduate education and is destined to make significant contributions to her field of study," Duban says.

Sowell received several scholarships from UNT, including the Honors College J/R Leliaert Scholarship, C.J. "Red" Davidson Scholarship and the Mary D. Walsh Endowed Scholarship. She was named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received this year's David B. Kesterson Award for Outstanding Honors College Student as well as the Fred Gantt Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student and the Ralph Yarborough Award for Best Undergraduate Paper from the Department of Political Science. She will graduate from UNT as an Honors College Distinguished Scholar.

Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at nancy.kolsti@unt.edu.

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April 2010

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