Skip to main content

Bonderman Fellow plans to cross cultural divide with wrestling

June 17, 2013

Daniel Miller

Daniel Miller, an M.A. student in the Jackson School, has been named a 2013 Bonderman Fellow. He plans to travel for about 10 months beginning in May 2014 to participate in folk wrestling, such as sambo, a Russian pastime invented during the Soviet era.

Miller said that participating in folk wrestling will give him a way to integrate into communities quickly. “I’m hoping because this is a nonverbal thing it will help me penetrate the culture a little bit more,” he said.

In the United States, wrestling is predominantly a male sport and Miller expects a similar demographic in other countries. He is especially interested in how globalization is impacting indigenous ideas and expectations of masculinity within these athletic communities of men.

Miller was active in lacrosse in high school in Blacksburg, Va., but he didn’t start any form of folk wrestling until he was an undergraduate student at Guilford College in North Carolina. While learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu, sambo and judo, he began reading on Wikipedia about folk wrestling in different countries and noticed cultural similarities in Europe and Asia.

A friend he shared his observations with suggested he look into the Bonderman Fellowship. The Bonderman is a different type of fellowship in that you are not supposed to do any formal research during your traveling, Miller said.

He plans to travel to Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Nepal, Armenia, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Iceland.

The Bonderman Fellowships, established in 1995 and worth $20,000 each, aim to expose students to the intrinsic, often life-changing benefits of international travel. While traveling, students may not pursue academic study, projects or research. UW graduate students and undergraduate students in the UW Honors Program and in UW Tacoma’s Global Honors Program are eligible to apply.

Miller is studying Chinese this summer in Taiwan and will be a teaching assistant in the fall. He plans to apply for Ph.D. programs in the fall. “I’ve been really fortunate,” he said of his time at the UW and at the Jackson School. “I’ve had great mentors, great professors.”