Graduate Students Win Dissertation Proposal Fellowships

Posted: July 20, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Selected from a highly competitive national pool of applicants, two Mason students were awarded Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowships by the Social Science Research Council, allowing them to focus on and develop their dissertation proposals this summer.

The students will receive up to $5,000 as a stipend for pre-dissertation research.

Sandra Ruckstuhl, a PhD student in Mason’s Conflict Analysis and Resolution Program, is using the grant money to develop a case study focused on conflict and cooperation in water management in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Specifically, she will be looking at political economies and political ecologies of institutions.

She expects to work with the staff of nongovernmental agencies, donor agencies, the Bosnian government and others who are working or have worked on water management projects. She aims to have her dissertation completed by May 2009.

This summer, Ruckstuhl is serving as a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, D.C., on water resources management from a social scientist’s perspective. She will be working on projects in the West Bank/Gaza and South Asia. She will also be studying for her comprehensive exams in August. Afterwards, she plans to go to Bosnia to work on her dissertation.

Victoria Watts, a PhD student in the Cultural Studies Program at Mason, is researching Benesh Movement Notation (BNM) and Labanotation, two ways of recording choreography in written form. She argues that these systems provide a tangible, visual trace of the way notators, experts who document choreography, actively see and understand movement.

Both BMN and Labanotation have changed in the way they look on the page since their respective origins, and she proposes that these changes are part and parcel of changes in the way notators see dance. She believes that these changes in dance notation systems reflect changes in the way dancers moved in the 20th century.

Lastly, she argues that dance, though highly refined and stylized, is part of a continuum of daily movement activity and thus can shed light on broader trends in embodied subjectivity.

Watts recently returned from a trip to Europe where she conducted research for her dissertation. She spent time in London at the Royal Academy of Dance, looking at dance scores written in BMN. She then traveled to France, where she conducted additional research and presented a paper at an international dance conference at the Centre National de la Danse. After returning home, she traveled to New York City to visit the Dance Notation Bureau and examine its holdings of Labanotation scores.

Her goal is to defend her dissertation by the end of this year.

Aside from her dissertation research, Watts works for the Royal Academy of Dance on a freelance basis as a practical teaching supervisor mentoring and assessing trainee ballet teachers. Additionally, she is researching and planning for a class she will teach at Mason in the fall.

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