International impact of Wake students and faculty working in Nepal

This past summer, one of our Assistant Professors in Anthropology, Dr. Steven Folmar, took a group of novice research anthropologists to the field.  The focus of the field trip was to validate psychological instruments they were using by introducing a standardized psychiatric examination, which they adapted to the cultural conditions of psychiatric phenomena in Nepal.

For the first five weeks, nine students on the Summer Program in Nepal as well as two medical students accompanied Dr. Folmar to Besisahar, Nepal.  Also accompanying Dr. Folmar and the students was Bennett Heine, a sophomore student on an independent, but mentored research project funded by the Reynolds scholarship program.  Bennett stayed for 8 ½ weeks, observing Dr. Folmar’s research on how caste affects mental health, and also conducting his own project on how the tailor caste uses its traditional occupation to attempt to transcend the limitations of being low caste.

During the trip, Dr. Folmar and his students learned that the government planned on widening the road through the bazaar in Besisahar.  This would mean that hundreds of people would lose their businesses and homes.  Their reactions echoed the types of distress–depression and anxiety–Dr. Folmar and his students were trying to measure in their formal study.  This meant sleepless nights for the residents and the constant worry and wondering, “Where will we go, what will we do?”  The predicament of these residents prompted an article published by student and faculty member research team: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18413-top-down-development-a-climate-of-uncertainty-fuels-forced-displacement-in-nepals-push-for-road-expansions.  The plans for widening the road and unsettling the population have also given this team of research anthropologists a clear and compelling rationale for a follow-up study on how planned disaster affects mental health.

This close interaction between faculty member and students is the experience we support and promote at Wake Forest.  Bennett’s experience in publishing some of his research work promotes key skills necessary for success in 21st century jobs, including working in teams, evaluating evidence and communicating results.  Kudos to Prof. Steve Folmar for leading such a fine program and mentoring these students!

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