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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Former Student Advisory Board Member Awarded Fulbright Scholarship

Erik Katovich, a May 2015 graduate of the University of Minnesota, and former member of the Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board, has begun his adventure as a Fulbright Scholar in São Paulo, Brazil. With a B.S. in economics and minors in mathematics, Spanish, and history, Erik plans to continue his work in the field of economics, with a focus on development, as both a student and a researcher.

As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Erik studied abroad early and extensively. Following his return from his second trip abroad in Spain, he became interested in studying the neighboring language of Portuguese. Due in part to his love of travel and languages, Erik developed a deep interest in the rich and complex literature, culture, and history of Brazil and the development challenges the country faces.

Among those challenges are the balancing of development, growth, and consumption with equality and human rights. On a more practical level, Erik further developed his interest in promoting and studying human rights from his internship experiences working with ESL learners and asylum-seekers and his time living abroad. As such, he has become actively involved in the Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board, serving the program for multiple years. Just this past year he was able to apply his desire in raising awareness of human rights issues and constructing workable solutions to its related issues by taking part in efforts to raise awareness for International Human Rights Day in December and in a clothes drive project for recognition of International Women's Day in March.
As a way to combine his interest in Brazil and in continuing his travels abroad with an application of his studies, Erik successfully applied for a scholarship through the US federal government's Fulbright Program to take part in a larger ongoing project hosted at the State University of Campinas in Brazil that focuses on comparing the development of labor markets in Brazil and the United States over the past few decades. For his part of the project, Erik will work with household survey and census data to measure the relationship between educational attainment and funding and uneven growth in productivity in various occupations, subsequently leading to changing forms of inequality throughout the economy. With a major policy goal in Brazil of addressing the right to an access to education, this work is inherently pertinent to the field of human rights. The results may demonstrate to policymakers the importance of funding education, or it may reveal the ways in which education policies drive inequality. Nevertheless, it should raise awareness for ways in which lawmakers can refine investment and efforts to better address and reduce inequalities in the country. The project's efforts will be an important contribution to Brazil's national debate over how to navigate the effects of the world economy and development on its citizens’ education and living standards. 

Through the program, Erik hopes to further hone his approaches to economic research and to further understand the role of the economy--both in Brazil and worldwide--in the field of human rights. As a Fulbright Scholar, he hopes to build connections and communication with activists and students and to deepen his knowledge of other countries, cultures, and languages.

Following his Scholarship, Erik aims to pursue graduate school for a PhD in applied economics or a related field with the help of his various experiences and interests. We commend Erik on his achievements and contributions, and we look forward to seeing his contributions to the field of human rights and beyond. 

To learn more about the Fulbright Program, click here