Alison Watkins
International Programs

KU student receives prestigious doctoral dissertation award

Mon, 10/22/2018

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is the only institution in the state to receive a 2018 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award.

Taylor Tappan, doctoral student in geography from Brookings, South Dakota, has been granted the award from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct his fieldwork in Costa Rica. His research examines how Alto Chirripó, an autonomous indigenous territory collectively owned by its resident communities, has functioned over time as a forest conservation unit in the context of rural population growth and expansion of swidden-fallow (slash-and-burn) agriculture within its boundaries.

Tappan is one of 100 people at 40 institutions of higher learning to receive this award from the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays International Education programs. 

He received a bachelor’s degree from KU in geography and Spanish in 2010 and a master’s degree in geography in 2015. This academic year Tappan is collaborating with colleagues from the geography department at Costa Rica's National University and various members of the Cabécar Indigenous Association to map land use/land cover change in the upland rainforest environments of Alto Chirripó — Costa Rica's largest indigenous territory and a keystone biodiversity conservation area within the greater Amistad Forest Corridor of southeastern Costa Rica and western Panamá.

“I am delighted to congratulate Taylor on this outstanding achievement. It has been a pleasure to see his research plans develop, first through a Pre-Dissertation award from the Office of International Programs that funded a pilot study in Costa Rica, and subsequently in preparation for the fieldwork he will now undertake through the DDRA. He is an accomplished student and scholar, and the DDRA funding will allow him to complete his dissertation research and will support his further development of advanced language and area studies knowledge in preparation for a fruitful academic career in Latin America," said Rachel Sherman Johnson, director of campus internationalization & fellowship programs for International Programs.

Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grants are part of the larger competitive Fulbright-Hays Program, which dates to 1961 when the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation for several programs that aim to increase mutual understanding between America and the rest of the world. Since the broader Fulbright program’s inception in 1946, 471 KU students, including Tappan, have been awarded Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays grants.

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