Brandeis student to embark on worldwide research trip

Circumnavigators Club Foundation funds 10-week trek to study people with disabilities across the globe

Photo/Mike Lovett

Madeline List '15

“Every time I return home from a trip, all I want to do is pack my bags and see more of the world. The desire to travel is just a part of who I am.”

For junior Madeline List ’15, the introduction of the Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholars travel-study grant program at Brandeis University was an alluring solution to her wanderlust. The Foundation provides college students a grant to conduct globally impactful research projects in a 10-week circumnavigation of the globe. This past December, List was selected from a pool of three school-wide finalists to be the first-ever Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholar at Brandeis.

Born legally blind in one eye, List faces daily challenges that prompted questions of how her condition might be perceived and treated in other countries. This fall, Brandeis became the first school in the Boston-area to offer the Circumnavigators Club Travel-Study Grant Program to one of its students, prompting List to commit to turning a meaningful topic of interest into a worldwide exploration of people with disabilities.

List is intent on using her travels to study the socio-economic and cultural challenges faced by disabled communities across the globe, with the goal of investigating cost-effective strategies to improve the welfare of people with disabilities and to promote their inclusion as active and productive members of society. Though she understands it is not easy to frame policies that support everyone’s needs, List is eager to share her findings in the field.

“I’d like to find people with disabilities who are thriving in their current state and inspect what national laws, organizations, and cultural factors are helping them flourish,” said List. “However, those people are not the norm. On the global scale, accessibility constraints cause many people with disabilities to encounter difficulties leaving their homes or navigating around their home towns. They are less likely to get a formal education and more likely to struggle financially. People with disabilities can lead extremely difficult lives, and there is a heartbreaking element to this issue that I expect to encounter in my journey. I hope to gain insight from those who have thrived in spite of adverse conditions to adapt into inexpensive and practical policies.”

List will travel to eight countries on five continents in 10 weeks, with stops in Singapore, Sweden, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Argentina, and Brazil. She will embark on the trip with guidance from a key member of the Circumnavigators Club – Brandeis International Business School Dean Bruce Magid. In 1972, he became the second-ever Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholar. In bringing the program to Brandeis this year, Dean Magid created a groundbreaking legacy in which a former Foundation Scholar introduced the award at their own institution.

“My travel and research as a Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholar set me on my lifelong journey to become Dean of Brandeis IBS,” said Magid. “I am sure this trip will change Madeline’s life and impact others through her research. I am honored to provide a Brandeis student the opportunity to develop a project of this magnitude.”

List will spend this semester creating a detailed itinerary that will transform her proposal into a tactical plan. As a business and politics major, she is eager to combine elements of her studies with topics that are personally relevant in an effort to create global change. Though she is building the specifics of her trip one step at a time, she can’t help but get excited for the journey that awaits her at semester’s end.

“The trend of international awareness and cultural research at Brandeis is what attracted me to the school in the first place. The opportunity to take my experiences and translate them into beneficial research gives this kind of travel a whole different color. I’m really grateful to go around the world with that kind of purpose.”

Madeline’s journey can be followed on Twitter from May 19 through August 3 at @MadelineList.

For more information about the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, visit their website. To learn more about the travel-study grant program at Brandeis, please contact Mrinalini Tankha, professor of anthropology and business.

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