When Melissa Krug was a child, her family bought handmade work from Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit that sells work from artisans around the world.
The products arrived wrapped in newspaper pages from all over the world. That early exposure to different written languages sparked Krug’s interest in linguistics.
“I was already interested in languages, so sometimes when they used the newspaper to wrap products up, I got to see the different languages,” said Krug, a doctoral candidate in linguistic anthropology.
When Krug studied anthropology as an undergraduate, she studied in Ecuador, which affirmed her interest in the Andean region.
Now, Krug has received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education and in January, she will travel to Lima, Peru to begin her 10-month research fellowship. She is the first scholar from Temple in 10 years.
Krug already spent a month in Peru this summer to familiarize herself with her subject of research, gain experience with fair trade organizations and begin to learn Quechua, one of Peru’s three official languages.
“The Fulbright-Hays is a specific initiative that is funding dissertation-level research that focuses on area studies or language,” said Barbara Gorka, the director of scholar development and fellowships advising at Temple.
Krug will spend her time abroad conducting research about how the fair trade organization, which she wants to remain private for the sake of her research, impacts Quechua artisans through observation, interviews and questionnaires. She will also study the Quechua business practices and language.
“I am interested in how processes of fair-trade socialization and involvement influence their enactment of identity as indigenous, or as members of other social groups,” Krug said.
The fair trade organization that she will work with is “trying to promote all the principles of fair trade: a fair wage, no child labor, empowerment of women, sustainable practices and encouraging use of indigenous cultural practices and artisan techniques,” Krug said.
The Quechua language is currently experiencing a decline in usage, Krug said, in part because it is an indigenous, non-dominant language in a nation where most citizens speak Spanish. She is interested in how fair trade influences the language specifically, and if fair trade is contributing to the decrease in its use.
“Some of the varieties of Quechua are being lost as people are becoming more integrated into different economies and they’re moving to the cities, and especially it’s because they’re stigmatized for speaking Quechua,” Krug said.
Applying for a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship often takes about a year to complete, requiring multiple letters of recommendation, transcripts and application papers describing the nature of the applicant’s research.
“Applying forces you to consider, you know, why is your research important, what are you trying to accomplish and should anyone care,” Paul Garrett, the director of graduate studies for the department of anthropology and Krug’s adviser. “It put your interests in a bigger perspective in that way.”
This fellowship will enable Krug to conduct her research, write her dissertation and complete her doctorate degree by 2020.
Other Temple students have also participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Last year, five Temple students received Fulbright student grants and have either started or soon will begin to conduct research in places like Vietnam and Ukraine.
But Krug is one of few Temple students to receive the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship.
“Melissa is the first Temple student to get a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship in a decade,” Garrett said. “The last was in 2006. So I’m very proud of her accomplishment in that regard.”
Marissa Howe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @marissahowe24.