Robin Kemkes, an economics Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received a prestigious Advanced Research Fellowship from the American Councils Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Program, which supports research in the independent states of the former Soviet Union. The award is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Title VIII Program for Research and Training on Eastern Europe and Eurasia (Independent States of the Former Soviet Union). Former Soviet Republics Georgia and Russia went to war in summer 2008 over a breakaway region.
Robin’s doctoral research focuses on equitable and sustainable rural development in the Upper Svaneti region in the former Soviet state of Georgia. The Advanced Research Fellowship will fund fieldwork and advanced study of the Georgian language over a six month period in summer and fall of 2011.
“Georgia, and Upper Svaneti in particular, are fascinating places. I look forward to working with my research partners there to identify rural development paths that will sustain its rich cultural heritage and diverse natural landscape,” noted Robin. “The United States is invested in Georgia’s future, and it is important that development paths support ethnic stability in its rural regions.”
Kemkes participates in the Environmental Working Group based at the Political Economy Research Institute and led by UMass Amherst Professors James K. Boyce and Michael Ash. Ash said, “Robin has developed a fascinating project, and her selection demonstrates increased attention to questions of environmental and cultural sustainability in economic development.”
Robin already holds a master’s degree in ecological economics (University of Vermont 2008). She has also received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship for the Summer Workshop in Slavic and East European Languages (SWSEEL) at Indiana University where she studied the Georgian language intensively for eight weeks in summer 2010.
More than 6,000 students, scholars, and researchers have participated in American Councils programs overseas since 1976. Its activity includes partnership affiliations with many Eurasian institutes and support for U.S. scholars in the former Soviet Union. Research funded by American Councils must “contribute to a body of knowledge enabling the U.S. to better understand the region and formulate effective policies within it.”