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New fellowship program will help students study development issues abroad

February 25, 2008

James Beshara, a senior economics major at Wake Forest University, with the help of Sylvain Boko, Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Economics at Wake Forest, has launched the Dvelo Fund, a fellowship program designed to give students an opportunity to study development issues in the underdeveloped world.

Fellowships are available to undergraduate students who plan to travel to developing countries to conduct firsthand research or to participate personally in development programs.  Recipients may apply for up to $4,000 in direct funding.

Beshara got the idea for the program after what he calls “a life-changing” trip to Africa with Boko during the summer of 2007.  They were able to raise funds privately to launch the fund and have obtained nonprofit status to facilitate accepting tax-deductible contributions from other sources.

“My experience would not have been possible had it not been for a grant from Wake Forest,” Beshara said.  “Sadly, many universities are beginning to cut funding for study-abroad research grants because of the extreme expense.  My hope is that the Dvelo Fund will offer students the same opportunity I had, and in turn, they might return from their experience and feel compelled, as I and so many others have, to continue to assist those who need it most.”

Beshara, a native of Dallas, Texas, will travel to Tanzania this summer with the Nyanya Project, an initiative created by Mary Martin Niepold, visiting instructor of English at Wake Forest. The project supports grandmothers raising grandchildren orphaned as a result of their parents succumbing to HIV and AIDS.  Nyanya volunteers construct homes, dig wells for drinking water and help start cooperatives to sell crafts and livestock.  Beshara also hopes to get involved with a microfinance development project while in Tanzania and plans to seek employment after graduation with a microfinance bank in Cape Town, South Africa.

Boko, a native of Benin, West Africa, annually leads Wake Forest students on summer field trips to Africa, where they examine firsthand the history, culture and development issues of the places they visit through classroom study and home stays with host families.

“As a teacher and a mentor, it is always inspiring to see students who dedicate themselves to improving the human condition,” Boko said.  “James Beshara is one such student.  In creating the Dvelo Fund, James plans to give other students the opportunity to discover the world beyond the boundaries of their immediate surroundings. The hope is that this will snowball into more involvement of young Americans in world affairs at a young age.  This is a forward-looking project, which impresses me in its creativity and innovation.  I am in full support of this initiative.”

The Dvelo Fund has also launched a new speaker series, which begins Feb. 28 with a visit by William Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University and one of the foremost development economists in the world.  The lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m. in Carswell Hall’s Annenberg Forum.  The event is co-sponsored by the department of economics through its John Moorhouse Fund; the Office

of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts; the Provost’s Office of International Affairs; and the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy.

For more information about the Dvelo Fund, visit

Press Contacts:

Eric Frazier
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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