Emily Wilbourne ’22 receives the 2021 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad

The Forum on Education Abroad recognized Wilbourne's research, which explores on impact of Japanese imperialism on a traditional Buddhist drum dance from Korea called “seungmu," or "Monk's dance."

The Forum on Education Abroad has named Emily Wilbourne ’22 the winner of the 2021 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad.

“This award is an incredible honor, which I am so grateful to receive,” Wilbourne said. “It feels like such a validation of the importance of this research, which I hope will make contributions to many scholarly fields.

Wilbourne, an arts administration major with a double minor in dance and interreligious studies, was recognized for her Multifaith Scholars research in South Korea titled, “The Impact of Japanese Colonialism on the Religiosity of Korean Seugmu Dance.”

The Award for Academic Achievement Abroad recognizes “sophisticated and thoughtful academic projects that occur as part of education abroad programs.” Wilbourne’s project focuses on the impact of Japanese imperialism on a traditional Buddhist drum dance from Korea called “seungmu” – or “Monk’s Dance.” Primarily, her research explores the dance’s embodied negotiations of Korean national identity following religious and political foundations imposed during the Japanese colonial period of 1910 to 1945.

Wilbourne presented her research at the Association of Asian Performance (AAP) professional conference in August and at the “Tradition and Innovation in Korean Dance” showcase in October on Elon’s campus.

“My study abroad experiences have been deeply formative, and I am always excited to speak about them,” she said.

She will give another presentation at The Forum’s 18th Annual Conference held virtually on March 22, 2022. Wilbourne will work alongside Morgan State University Professor Natasha Otto in sharing her work.

The paper resulting from her independent research reveals a deep level of cultural sensitivity, historical acumen, and theoretical sophistication,” said Pamela Winfield, one of her mentors during the project. “Most importantly, her original ethnographic research revises standard scholarship on the art form as a purely secular folk dance, and instead reveals that dancers, teachers, and masters of this Intangible Cultural Property continue to find deep religious and spiritual meaning when performing it today.”

Winfield, professor of religious studies, along with Casey Avaunt, assistant professor of dance, served as Wilbourne’s co-mentors. Jiwon Ha, adjunct instructor in performing arts, also greatly assisted in her research

“It has been a true joy and privilege to co-mentor Emily … and we are just thrilled that Emily has been recognized by this nationally-competitive award,” Winfield said. “Emily’s sustained commitment to researching the Monk’s Dance during this pandemic year demonstrated true diligence and resilience.”

Winfield also credited the Multifaith Scholars program, the Religious Studies Department, The Center for Research on Global Engagement, the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society for their support.

“Emily has grown a lot throughout this process,” said Avaunt. “While she was already a strong researcher and writer, her time in Korea allowed her to broaden her experiences.”

Wilbourne’s qualities of being “responsible, mature and intelligent” made every week something to look forward to.

“Emily continually impressed Dr. Winfield and I with her ability to conduct high-level research and to quickly adapt to any challenge that she was faced with,” Avaunt said.

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Other than the recognition from The Forum, Wilbourne was named the 2021 Summer Research Fellows for the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society and was selected to participate in the 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program.

“This research has been a huge part of my life for the past two years as a part of Elon’s Multifaith Scholars Program. Receiving this award feels like a sign that I wasn’t just messing around but that I am doing work that is actually contributing something high-quality to the scholarly field,” Wilbourne said. “I’m so grateful for the time I spent abroad in South Korea – it was one of the most transformative and educational experiences of my life – and am excited to share my research with the Forum on Education Abroad at their conference in March.”