Neal ’13 Awarded Fulbright Grant to Study Role of Education in Post-War Sri Lanka

History major with Asian studies concentration awarded prize for paper on Sri Lankan studies

May 29th, 2013 by Nikolas Markantonatos


Image by John Buckingham

Malik Neal ’13, of Philadelphia, has been awarded a Fulbright research grant for the 2013-14 academic year to study the role of education in post-war Sri Lanka. A history major with an Asian studies concentration, Neal will explore how secondary schools teach and discuss the war and the various groups involved.

The project will rely heavily on field research, including visiting schools, looking at curricula, speaking with teachers, students and education officials. “It is my hope that this research project will provide a better understanding of how Sri Lanka, and other countries affected by civil war, can cope with reconciliation in the classroom and foster peace and understanding for future generations,” he said.

Neal became interested in Sri Lanka because few people know much about the small island country. Last year he spent a semester in Sri Lanka, staying with a host family and studying Sinhala, history, culture and religion at the University of Peradeniya.

“I conducted an independent study project, in which I tried to grapple with the complexity of war. My research concerned [militant, terrorist group] Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam child soldiers and the experience of the Sri Lankan Civil War and its aftermath. The experience gave me a picture of the grim reality of war and its legacies, which has stuck with me ever since,” he wrote in his personal statement.

Neal’s interest in Sri Lanka also earned him more recognition recently. His essay on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka was awarded the Outstanding Paper Prize in Sri Lankan Studies by the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The paper, titled “Symbolic Politics and the Roots of Ethnic Conflict: The Case of Sri Lanka,” examines the reasons for the conflict in the island nation. Both full-time graduate students and college seniors were eligible to apply.

At Holy Cross, Neal was founder and cochair of the Holy Cross Political Union; chancellor of the Knights of Columbus; copy editor of the Fenwick Review; and member of the Student Advisory Committee for the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies. He also interned at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee through the Washington Semester Program.

Each year approximately 1,700 U.S. college students are awarded grants through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship program in international educational exchange, awards grants to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Since the program’s inception in 1946, more than 300,000 participants — selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential — have had the opportunity to observe each other’s political, economic and cultural institutions. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

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