Kelley Program provides travel funds, mentorship to scholars

Daniel Fleer-

Kelley Scholars (L to R) Donal Mahoney ’18, Kathleen Walsh ’18, and Jessie Cohen ’18 presented their theses topics in Hance Auditorium. Photo by Emma Brentjens

small group of Davidson’s senior history majors, participating in the Kendrick Kelley Honors Program, have spent a significant portion of the last year scouring parts of the world for information about their thesis topics. They convened in Hance Auditorium on Monday to present their work to a gathering of faculty and students.

Jessie Cohen ‘18 presented first, discussing her thesis topic “Family Planning in Ghana 1957-2002.” In her presentation, Cohen provided important original research, a hallmark of the Kelley program, on the family planning debate in Ghana in depth, and also put that discussion in a global context. In order to undergo this research, Cohen traveled to Ghana, where she looked at government archives in person in addition to developing relationships with people who had been a part of the family planning movement.

Up next was Kathleen Walsh ‘18, whose thesis is currently titled “Memorializing Rebellion: Looking back on the Jacobites from 19th century Britain.” She explored how the Jacobites, a group of 17th and particularly 18th century dissidents who attempted to reinstall a certain bloodline to the throne, were remembered and how these memories were formed. Walsh researched to explore how, in the 19th century, the present and the past influenced each other in the creation of memory and in contemporary debates, including those about the role of women. Walsh recalled that people unfamiliar with the Kelley program were “shocked to hear both my topic and the fact that I was an undergraduate.”

Last to present was Donal Mahoney ‘18, who like Walsh did his research in Britain. His thesis explored the significant role of pepper in the rise of the East India Company from 1600 to 1630. In his presentation, Mahoney explored the meaning of the commodity in British society through a variety of lenses, but especially pepper’s unique economic role. In order to complete his research, Mahoney looked at real minutes from meetings of the East India Company to explain just how important pepper was to the Company. He described the “amazing experience” of researching in the British Library and working alongside “hardcore historians as a senior in college.”

The rest of this year’s class of seven scholars presented their projects in the fall, with Ikra Javed ‘18 researching “Sexual Liberation under Zia and Bhutto’s Pakistan(s),” Connor Haycox ‘18 researching “Collectivism, Public Health, and Pandemic in Spain from 1849-1936,” Brian Wood ‘18 researching “The Impact of the Desegregation of Medicine on Black Physicians in North Carolina,” and Daniel Castañeda ‘18 researching “Regional Distinctions in Treatment and Blame During Peru’s Cholera Epidemic,”

The history department’s Kendrick Kelley Honors Program funds these research opportunities and the significant amount of associated travel.

Dr. Patricia Tilburg, who is currently the director of the program, explained, “Ken Kelley was an honors history student and Davidson alum, class of ‘63 who was a U.S. Army officer in Vietnam.”

Tilburg added that the Kendrick Kelley Honors Program Endowment was established “by family and friends in his memory after [Kelley] died in combat in 1968.” Because of this endowment, which has been sustained for decades, Tilburg explained that the program has the “very unusual” ability to send students across the globe as their research requires.

In addition to funding research abroad, the program provides profound mentorship resources to Kelley Scholars. Mahoney described the “hands on” process whereby Scholars have the “really amazing” opportunity to meet with “two professors at the same time.”

Tilburg also emphasized that even though many Kelley theses result in “master’s level work” most Kelley Scholars do not pursue graduate-level study in history, instead pursuing other career paths. In fact at least three of this year’s Kelley Scholars plan to attend medical school.

However, some do pursue further study in the field, including Elizabeth Cowan ‘17, who said the program cemented her love of history and gave her “practically unheard of” opportunities.

Cowan stated that the program propelled her into her current Davidson Impact Fellowship with the Salzburg Global Seminar and her current application process to graduate school in Ireland, where she conducted her thesis research.

She added that her class of scholars got “very close” over their year in seminar, and Mahoney similarly lauded the sense of camaraderie among the scholars.

In addition to funding travel for students, the Kelley Program also works to bring “distinguished historians” to lecture at Davidson every semester.

The program’s Spring Kelley Lecturer will be Dr. Carol Anderson, a professor of African-American Studies at Emory University, who will speak about her latest, award-winning book, entitled White Rage. She will be presenting on April 22nd at 7:00pm in Tyler-Tallman Hall.

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