Professor awarded Rotary Peace Fellowship

Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer

Kala Chakradhar, associate professor of social work, is the first professor at Murray State to be named a recipient of the 2017 Rotary Peace Fellowship, a three month program for professionals to study peace and conflict resolution at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chakradhar said when she found out she was selected for the fellowship, she was taken aback because of the competitiveness of the program.

“Getting this was something unbelievable, but I’m glad I’m getting this opportunity,” she said.

The fellowship will focus on peace and conflict prevention. Chakradhar said she is looking to gain validation about her experiences with conflict and add to what she already knows.

“Conflict is in families and communities,” Chakradhar said. “We are seeing it in a larger way in the world with the wars that are going on.”

She said she wants to incorporate the program’s training into her curriculum at Murray State and also on an international level as a study abroad program.

The program will explore the theoretical background of what conflict is, what conflict resolution is and how to approach conflict resolution.

“I’m really looking forward to that, especially for the multinational experience because I’m sure there are approaches that are going to be different based on the context and what works in that culture, so we will have a lot to learn from each other,” Chakradhar said.   

 Martin B. Tracy, chair of Murray Rotary Club subcommittee on the peace scholarship, said the club is very happy Chakradhar was accepted into the fellowship.

“It makes our club look good and it makes our local district look good and it makes Murray State look good to have a professor who qualifies for such a prestigious fellowship,” Tracy said.

The fellowship is awarded to 50 applicants a year from a worldwide pool. Tracy said the program has been around since 2004 and only one other professor from Kentucky at the University of Louisville has received the Rotary Peace Fellowship.

He said he hopes Chakradhar comes back to Murray State and integrates her new knowledge into her university curriculum. In September, she will present her education and experiences to to the Murray Rotary Club.

“She is very experienced in living and working in other cultures, which will complement the knowledge she already has and improve it, so when she comes back she will be fired up, she will be excited, she will be energized and she will be very anxious to incorporate her new knowledge into her curriculum,” Tracy said.

Rotary, a service organization, offers two peace fellowships: Master’s Degree and Professional Development Certificate, according to Rotary’s website.

To receive the fellowship, an applicant is recommended to apply and go through an interview at a local level and district level. The Rotary’s headquarters in Chicago makes the final selections for the program based on the recommendations from the rotary clubs.

Hannah Ellis, junior from Paducah, said she took Chakradhar’s SWK 311 last spring and the course focused on interviewing. She said she learned a lot in her class because of the depth of her knowledge and she was always willing to help.

“I think she always goes above and beyond in whatever she does and I think this is just an example of that,” Ellis said. “She is willing to go overseas to do this awesome thing. I think she’ll do a great job representing Murray State and bringing back the culture she’ll learn about.”