Three Class of 2023 alumni win second annual Arley D. Cathey Fellowships

Amala Karri, AB/AM’23, Isabelle Russo, AB’23, and Donna Son, AB’23, to receive funding to pursue graduate studies abroad

University of Chicago College alumni Amala Karri, AB/AM’23, Isabelle Russo, AB’23, and Donna Son, AB’23, have received 2023 Arley D. Cathey International Graduate Study Fellowships, which will provide them with financial assistance to pursue a rigorous, research-oriented master's degree at an internationally renowned foreign research university. 

The College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF) and Study Abroad jointly administered this international graduate study fellowship for the first time in 2022. Read more about the inaugural class of Cathey Fellows here.

The Fellows were selected based on their ability to demonstrate the following qualities in their applications: a vision for the impact of their work, academic merit, capacity for leadership, ambassadorial potential and preparation for their proposed program of study. 

Amala Karri

Originally from New York City, Amala Karri graduated from the College earlier this month with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She also earned a master’s degree in international relations with concentrations in international security/conflict studies and international political economy.

Amala Karri
Amala Karri

The Cathey Fellowship will help fund the next step in her academic journey this fall at the University of Oxford, where she will pursue an MSc in refugee and forced migration studies. Upon completing her studies at Oxford, she plans to attend law school and work as an asylum lawyer. 

A child of immigrants herself, Karri is particularly interested in children’s issues and climate change-induced migration, which she predicts will be the largest migration crisis of our time. 

Some of Karri’s most meaningful experiences at UChicago have taken place overseas, she said, from her quarter abroad in Paris to the week she spent in Taipei as part of her M.A. program’s Asian politics seminar. She knew she wanted to spend time abroad after graduating, which made the Cathey Fellowship, geared towards supporting international education, a perfect fit. 

“I love immersing myself in different cultures, interacting with people in different countries, and learning about their experiences and perspectives,” she said. “Cathey was especially appealing to me because it offered me the opportunity to continue studying and learning about the issues in which I’m most interested in an academic setting.” 

Both Karri’s B.A. and M.A. programs at UChicago provided her with excellent training in social science research and showed her how different disciplines approach issues of migration. She said she is grateful to her professors and peers who have helped her become the scholar she is today. 

“The coursework at UChicago taught me to think critically and ask questions, and I’m confident that no matter how challenging my coursework next year is, UChicago will have prepared me for it,” she said. “As someone who is interested in international relations and migration, I really care about building cross-country and cross-cultural relationships. I’m honored to be part of the second class of Cathey fellows and to help UChicago expand its global network.”

Isabelle Russo

Isabelle Russo, also a New York City native, studied political science in the College. Starting this fall, she will be pursuing an MPhil at the University of Cambridge in environmental policy. With this degree, she aims to help lead the way to a global clean energy future by addressing the economic, social, legal and political challenges posed by climate change. 

Isabelle Russo
Isabelle Russo

While at Cambridge, she will be researching whether previously implemented safeguards and policy solutions, such as fair trade or global standards, can also be applied to the extraction of natural resources that are critical to energy storage without creating harmful shortages.

“As the clean energy transition starts to make significant progress, certain natural resources are essential to renewable technologies like solar panels and batteries for electric vehicles and short to medium-term energy storage,” she said. “This research will allow me to learn more about land management and environmental ethics, and advance the dialogue as countries and companies seek to impose protections in this area.”

Russo’s interest in combating climate change has fed a passion for expanding and improving mass transit. She aspires to work for a public transit agency with a focus on transitioning to sustainable energy, and is also interested in pursuing work in renewable energy development as well as energy storage and incentivizing electric vehicle deployment.

The Cathey Fellowship’s mission of supporting students in pursuing advanced degrees abroad with the goal of serving the world resonated with Russo. By fostering global partnerships in the U.K., she hopes to play a role in developing climate friendly transportation solutions for communities of all sizes that can be scaled worldwide.

“After my U.K. graduate work, I know that with my expertise, as well the relationships I will develop with Cambridge scholars, policy experts, and transportation leaders, I can be a bridge between the two nations in pursuing this critical work,” she said. “In the end, I hope to play a role in helping the U.S. and U.K. partner with other nations on the road to an accessible, efficient and climate-resilient future.”

Donna Son

Born and raised in Denton, Tex., Donna Son majored in political science and French, with a minor in history. She will pursue an M.A. in history at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (also known as Sciences Po) starting this fall.

Donna Son
Donna Son

She later hopes to complete a Ph.D. in French history and work as an academic historian before becoming a professor. 

One of the subjects that was central to Son’s studies at UChicago was the construction of race, its cultural manifestations, and its importance to contemporary politics. Growing up Korean American in a predominantly white environment, she said, attuned her to the complexities of race and made her feel uneasy at times. 

Once she began taking coursework in the College that focused on theories and histories of racialization, she said she acquired the conceptual tools and vocabulary to critically analyze and situate race. Much of her undergraduate research under Prof. Leora Auslander concerned race’s cultural manifestations during the French colonial and postcolonial period, combining her academic interests in French history and literature with the study of race. 

“My time in the College was fundamental to shaping how I think about the world and imagine my place in it,” she said. “It provided me the resources to further my intellectual pursuits, and I am grateful to the College for having afforded me such an opportunity.”

Through her master’s program, she said she is looking forward to bridging what has largely been a cultural study of race with a political and economic dimension of the same subject.

Son said she is deeply humbled and thrilled to join the second cohort of Cathey Fellows, and represent the College and the University across the world. 

“I am grateful to the countless faculty who mentored and supported me, the friends who offered feedback and moral support, and to administrators who listened to my ideas and encouraged me to pursue them,” she said. “I am so indebted to all of the people in my life – family, friends, professors, and administrators – who made all of this possible.”