Garner is one of two recipients for the competitive, national award, and the first Elon University student to receive it.
Taylor Garner ’20 received the Forum on Education Abroad 2019 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad during the forum’s virtual annual conference.
The Award for Academic Achievement Abroad recognizes significant academic projects during an education abroad program. The Forum calls rigorous academics a “pillar of education abroad programming that requires critical thinking, analysis, and creativity.”
Garner’s work on her thesis, “Mobilizing Memories: Women’s Affective and Embodied Memory Work in Argentina and Palestine,” took her to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a semester and to Nablus, Palestine, for a summer.
An Honors Fellow, Garner has also won a Center for Research on Global Engagement research grant, the Undergraduate Research Program Advisory Committee’s Rawls grant, the Heidi Frontani Memorial Study Abroad Essay Contest, which comes with an award to support study abroad.
Garner was to receive the award in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Forum’s annual conference, but the conference had to be moved online. Instead, Garner gave a video presentation followed by a live, virtual question-and-answer session with the audience.
Garner described her approach in both communities as an “ethnographic, semi-structured process” and discussed the importance of first getting to know people and then hearing their stories. She built those connections through teaching English as well as seeking shared connections through hobbies.
These connections and conversations were powerful cross-cultural moments for Garner to learn about the complexity of her host community while also addressing stereotypes about the United States. When Garner was asked charged questions, she saw it as an opportunity to broaden and complicate certain one-dimensional views of American identities.
Garner aims to continue this work. She has been awarded a Fulbright student grant to Morocco and has been accepted to serve with the Peace Corps in Colombia. “My research really sparked my interest in looking at women’s empowerment, mobility and stories,” said Garner. She also hopes to research stories in Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, among other locations shaped by conflict or trauma. “Those are just some. I’m very interested to have more of a broad picture,” said Garner.
In addition to Garner’s own intellectual curiosity and exceptional initiative, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, director of the Center for Research on Global Engagement and interim associate provost for academic excellence, acknowledged the importance of the high-quality mentorship of Assistant Professor of Geography Sandy Marshall, as well as the resources and leadership of the directors of the Honors, Undergraduate Research, and National and International Fellowship programs, in supporting her intellectual journey at Elon. Vandermaas-Peeler noted, “It has been so inspiring to follow Taylor’s development as a scholar over the past few years, and I was incredibly proud watching her present to an international audience today.” As one study abroad professional who attended her presentation noted, “This session has been an important reminder that this is why we do what we do.”
Marshall, who is Garner’s Honors Fellows mentor, virtually attended the presentation. “It was really touching to see how eloquently Taylor talked about her experiences in Argentina and Palestine,” said Marshall. “What a tribute to her research participants. Not to mention that she did Elon proud as well!”
Director of Global Engagement Rhonda Waller also attended and commended Garner for adjusting to addressing an audience from home instead of a stage. “She really overcame the limitations of the virtual format and drew in listeners to a complex and challenging topic, but in a way that was approachable and well-paced.”
The award comes with a $500 prize to help support Garner’s research moving forward. In the meantime, Garner shared advice for future education abroad students: “Don’t let anyone tell you that studying abroad is not hard, because it is … but it’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to challenge your perspective.”