Hiram College

Merose Hwang, assistant professor of history, has been chosen among a highly competitive pool of candidates to study linguistics and policy while making a difference in the world through the Kathryn Davis Fellows for Peace program.

Kathryn W. Davis, an author, philanthropist and scholar, founded the Fellows for Peace program in 2007 on her 100th birthday. Each year, the Fellowship provides funding for 100 individuals to immerse in peacemaking as they build skills in language and policy studies. Fellows go on to work in international relief efforts, peace development and other projects at home and abroad.

Dr. Hwang’s focus throughout the fellowship, which runs June 12 to Aug. 7, 2015, will be North Korean studies.

Throughout the fellowship, she will attend the Middlebury Language Institute’s School of Korean in Oakland, Calif. While studying at the Institute, Dr. Hwang will only be speaking Korean. The total immersion is designed to improve fluency and competency for participants’ target languages while they develop project initiatives based on the areas they are focusing on.

“You have to sign a pledge saying you won’t be conversing in other languages,” she said. “Teachers and coaches will work with you even during your off time to make sure you are fully immersed.”

Through her focus on North Korean studies during the fellowship, Dr. Hwang hopes to establish a Hiram College course in North Korean history and international relations in East Asia while studying aspects of policy, political science and economics.

“It seems to me that students have generally been interested in North Korean topics partially because of the flurry in the media, so that’s part of my determination to develop a course on North Korea and do some research around it,” Dr. Hwang said. “I’d also like to do some primary research in North Korean materials because there is a lack of reliable academic materials on North Korea.”

The topic of North Korea has remained relatively untouched in academia due to this lack of rigorously researched and critically analyzed materials, and Dr. Hwang hopes that her linguistic training and work through the fellowship will expand her classroom content.

“Ideally, what I’d like to do is publish a new project on North Korea, particularly through the archival work that I wish to do,” she said. “There’s such a wealth of ethnographic information that can be drawn from North Korean informants, so having the language skill will help me with all of those things.”

Dr. Hwang is especially grateful to Hiram for its support of her research and for the College’s interdisciplinary focus, which she said has helped develop her insight as a historian. She believes that Hiram’s emphasis on interdisciplinary studies pushes her to ask questions that aren’t so narrowly defined, but will allow her ask innovative questions and to approach her materials with a broader lens.

Dr. Hwang said her experience as a Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace will also help her as she prepares for a 2016 sabbatical to South Korea.

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