WALLA WALLA, Wash.— Erik Andersen, a Whitman College junior majoring in political philosophy, has received a prestigious Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study.

The award provides $30,000 for graduate study in the social sciences, arts and humanities and can be used over several years. In addition, winners receive $2,000 prior to entering graduate school to defray costs including application and moving. This award is especially exciting because there are few scholarships available for graduate study in the humanities, said Shannon Gilmore of the Whitman Grants and Fellowships Office. For more information on applying for this and other scholarships, contact her at 527-5184.

Andersen, who designed his own major at Whitman, plans to pursue an interdisciplinary course of study in graduate school and is considering several Ph.D. programs around the country in areas that include rhetoric, social thought, the history of consciousness, and comparative studies in discourse and society.

Andersen cites his volunteer experiences in Tibet in 2004 and his study of Foucault and Kant in his sophomore year at Whitman in his evolution toward a self-designed major in politics and philosophy and his firmly held belief that to “protect and develop the faculty of imagination in oneself and others seems to be the worthiest of undertakings.”

While working for Terma Foundation, a non-government organization that combats infectious disease, malnutrition, and maternal and child mortality in Tibet, he noted in his Beinecke application, he struggled with the question “What can an education do to help us face the evils of our world?”

After much soul-searching he decided on a teaching style that was not simply culturally sensitive, but also nonviolent and ‘unimposing’—“one that could accommodate possibilities that neither my students nor I could know in advance.” Consequently, he said, “I began to find ways for our class to address Tibet’s multidimensional problems through an interdisciplinary approach that combined theater, visual arts, and prose with health education and indigenous nutritional and medicinal knowledge. Such education reconfigures what is possible.”

The study of Foucault and Kant in his sophomore year at Whitman, said Andersen, confirmed his faith in this kind of education. “I found in Foucault a richer articulation of the distinction between knowledge as information and knowledge that is transformative that I intuited in Tibet, this time in the context of academic scholarship.”

Andersen said he hopes to some day be a professor who works with students to imagine radically different ways of living, “as my work on the philosophy of nonviolence continues to transform and be transformative.”

While at Whitman, Anderson’s community activities have included service on the General Studies Committee, a presentation at the Symposium on Race Relations and the Community, presentation at the Alternative Voice Course Conference on the Ku Klux Klan, a show on KWCW radio station, and volunteer work for the Walla Walla Democratic Party.


CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
E-mail: parishlj@whitman.edu