Mar 19, 2009

Ph.D. Student Bob Bell Awarded Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship

Bob W. Bell, Jr., a first-year doctoral student in the School of Information, has been awarded a UC Berkeley Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for the 2009–2010 academic year.  The FLAS Fellowship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to assist graduate students in foreign language and either area or international studies.

Bob's studies at the I School focus on the role of technology and entrepreneurship in development: in particular, how technical innovation affects development in Africa, and the role of diasporic communities and knowledge transfer.

After completing his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, Bob volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya during the summer of 2004. Bob decided to sponsor one of the orphanage's street children, but soon began to wonder how all the other children could receive sustainable long-term support. More importantly, he wondered if his technical background could somehow play a role in finding solutions for the issues of poverty he encountered.

These questions led Bob to studies of development agencies in Taiwan and Chile; further research in Kenya, including business journalism work in Nairobi; work with the UN Conference on Trade and Development, in Geneva, Switzerland; and a master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School, studying African agricultural biotechnology and socioeconomic progress among Kenya's rural poor.

After two years abroad, Bob's goal at the I School is to reflect on these experiences, analyze the role of innovation in development, and apply those insights to facilitate economic progress in Africa.

Bob plans to use the stipend during the 2009–2010 academic year for further study of the Swahili language and East African culture, in preparation for his future academic research, teaching, and public service; he expects that these skills will prove helpful for future interviews and qualitative research.

Last updated:

October 4, 2016