By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Academic adventures of a lifetime don’t come along every day.
During his first three years at the University of Mississippi, Vince Chamblee of Fulton can claim three, and he’s departing on the fourth of this month.
The 21-year-old’s studies have taken him to China, the London School of Economics and the Scottish Parliament.
This summer, Chamblee will explore economic solutions to the problem of human trafficking in Rwanda, Dubai and Geneva for the Barksdale Award, through a fellowship given through the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
“Ole Miss has been so generous with its phenomenal resources,” Chamblee said. “I’m so fortunate they feel like I’m like I’m some sort of investment.”
Chamblee, who is set to graduate in May 2010 with a triple major in economics, public policy leadership and accounting, started his college career focused on a very direct track to graduate school and a career in the corporate world.
“I had no intentions of studying abroad,” said Chamblee, the son of Tommy and Rita Chamblee of Fulton and Joyce Johnston of Tupelo. “I had no idea I was going to do any of this … I never knew economics could be applied to social problems.”
Around the world
An interest in sustainable development – how economies can grow without devastating the environment or human social systems – has evolved through Chamblee’s experiences at Ole Miss and abroad.
In 2007, he spent a month in the summer at the University of Nanjing in southeast China, studying developing economies and how they can balance sustainable growth environmentally and socially.
In 2008, he spent the summer studying at the prestigious London School of Economics.
“I’ve never been challenged like that in my life,” Chamblee said.
In the spring semester this year, he and another Ole Miss student were two of 16 interns at the Scottish National Parliament.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Chamblee said, even though that meant he had to pass on campus opportunities in Oxford.
He and his fellow interns had a five-week crash course on Scottish and United Kingdom politics and law. Then he worked for two members of the Scottish Parliament, researching briefs and writing press releases. He even helped with campaigning along side the members in north Scotland.
The Barksdale Award, first awarded in 2005, challenges Ole Miss students to come up with their dream academic projects and awards $5,000 to make it happen. Up to two are awarded each year.
“We’re looking for students who take risks with their time and their intellect,” said Barksdale Honors College Associate Dean Debra Young. “The intent is clearly for them to learn from the experience, not to confirm what they were expecting.”
Past winners have studied malaria in Kenyan villages, explored the places that inspired a poet’s work in Spain, laid the foundation for an educational charity in Africa and studied micro-financing on the ground in Arkansas, New Orleans and Malawi.
The other Barksdale Award for 2009 went to a student who is traveling Europe and painting landscapes.
“It’s stunning what our students are able to dream and accomplish,” Young said.
For Chamblee’s Barksdale Award fellowship, he’ll be looking at ways economics and creating sustainable economies could help address human trafficking.
“What Vince has proposed is grappling with a horrible issue and the complexities of that issue,” Young said. “It’s remarkable and timely.”
Chamblee will get a close-up view of the problem in Rwanda and broader perspectives on international efforts to stop it from agencies in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Geneva.
“From an economic perspective, the only way to eradicate it is to make it unprofitable … It’s terrible to think about human life having a value in money, but in Ethiopia there are stories of families selling children for the equivalent of $2,” Chamblee said. “Families are promised their children will have a good life and send money back home, but that doesn’t happen.”
If there’s a sustainable economy, where parents can earn enough to feed their families, there’s hope for the children to grow up and contribute, Chamblee said. Then the supply of people for human trafficking dries up.
It’s a tall order, but in these developing countries in Africa a relatively small amount of money can go a long way.
“It’s not that much to provide a family with opportunities greater than $2,” Chamblee said.
This summer most of Chamblee’s time will be in Rwanda where he’ll be working as an intern for the Clinton Foundation, in addition to his time spent researching his fellowship. Although the Clinton Foundation’s work intersects with his Barksdale Award project on human trafficking, the research will be separate from his internship, he said.
He anticipates his work this summer will figure heavily into his senior thesis and he plans to produce a written report for the Barksdale Institute, even though it’s not required as part of the fellowship, Chamblee said.
“I think this summer’s going to tell me a lot.”