The University of New Mexico is churning out a new, inspiring wave of researchers–made up of its own students and faculty.

Beyond a regular announcement, The Office of the Vice President for Research and the Global Education Office, are introducing the faculty and student winners of this year’s Globally-Engaged Research Awards, and sharing what they hope to accomplish.

Tara Falce

Tara Falce

Meet the first ever undergraduate recipient of this award (the Deborah Rifenbary Memorial Undergraduate Student Award.)

Falce is centering her time in Italy, to connect with and speak to Syrian refugees. Following the highly resounding Arab Spring protests and its eventual evolution into a fully blown civil war, many Syrian citizens fled the collapsing region. Falce is not only approaching the crisis from a humanitarian perspective, but a political one. She’s analyzing the role of the greater Mediterranean region and the United Nations in relation to the end of the war. 

I am honored to be receiving this award because it is important to bring the voices of Syrian refugees into the forefront of academia,” Falce said. “I would like to thank the International Studies Institute and my research advisor for encouraging me to carry on this project. It brings me immense joy to have a platform to speak about the status of Syrian refugees during the Syrian Civil War.”

Senior Lecturer of Arabic Heather Sweester highlighted Falce’s detailed commitment in her recommendation for Falce’s award.

“I truly cannot understate the amount of independent research Tara has done regarding this particular project,” Sweester said. “I have never met any undergraduate or even graduate student who meticulously planned a research paper so well in advance and who was organized enough to continue the project despite various setbacks regarding access to primary sources.”

Falce just graduated from UNM, and is already heading back to Italy for graduate work at the American University in Rome to study Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.

Alok Bohara

Meet the second annual faculty award recipient of this award. Bohara is approaching his poignant topic with a stronghold of experience, already developing his own experiential learning model and publishing papers.

Alok BoharaMarch2019
Alok Bohara

Academic research has the potential to make a positive impact on the community beyond pursuing excellence in classroom teaching, publication, citations, and recognition. As someone from a country with immense ecological diversity and home to the Himalayan Range, I had been thinking about research projects addressing climate change,” Bohara said.

Over the past 18 years, since the establishment of the Nepal Study Center at UNM, Bohara has devoted his time to conducting research related to the Himalayan region. His research endeavors have included numerous field projects that actively involved students in studying various aspects such as natural disasters, health, river restoration, gender hygeine, and food security. Through these projects, Bohara has also fostered connections with Himalayan scholars worldwide.

Following a devastating earthquake in 2015, Bohara collaborated with an engineering colleague and a group of engineering students to travel to Nepal and construct a women's community center. This experience served as a personal motivation for Bohara to witness the rewarding nature of hands-on engagement and inspired him to develop experiential learning methods and tools for undergraduate students. Throughout this period, he continued to teach economics at UNM, assist student research, and establish global connections through the Nepal Study Center.

Reflecting on his experience, Bohara acknowledges the transformative potential of interdisciplinary research in driving innovative solutions. As an economist, he gained invaluable hands-on experience from his projects in a Nepalese village. After analyzing the field  data in the UNM classroom, Bohara encouraged students to find solutions, which were then implemented on the ground in Nepal through a study abroad program. This approach created a truly community-engaged research model that benefited all parties involved.
Now that a paper describing the NSC's experiential learning model has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, it has the potential to serve as a blueprint for other UNM colleagues and beyond, allowing for the replication of this impactful approach. Bohara’s submission contained a plethora of praise from colleagues and former students, led by Regents Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Economics Robert Berrens.
“In his quiet, humble, determined way he has been providing an important, sustained slice of global engagement to a constant flow of UNM students, both international and domestic, for the last 18 years. It is hard for me to imagine a more deserving individual,” Berrens said.
Beau Murphy

Beau Murphy 

This award originated with graduate researchers, two of whom are still finding unique topics which deserve attention this year. 

Murphy is highlighting a specific combination of the past and present, with Andean archaeology during times of political rule. After conducting his own self-funded research, Murphy believes there is more to understand with Inka imperialism and the transformations which took place in what is now Peru and Chile.

“When I got an opportunity to work in the Andes, I got to see how incredible the archaeology of the region is and how rich the culture still is in Peru and Chile. These things made me want to keep returning and hopefully make a contribution to our collective understanding of the Andean past through archaeological research,” Murphy said.

While creating his dissertation in the Atacama Desert, Murphy hopes his archeological findings of 600 years ago will provide key discussion points for modern day architecture.

“I am very excited to reveal some small piece of what happened here that wasn't known before. It is very challenging, but it is also extremely enriching both personally and professionally,” Murphy said. “I am so glad that the university is encouraging the work that UNM faculty and students are doing globally, and I am extremely honored to be an awardee.”

Murphy was supported by Latin American and Iberian Institute Director and Anthropology Professor Frances Hayashida.

”In 25 years of teaching, I have not seen a graduate student who has experienced more personal and professional growth than Beau. I am tremendously proud of what he has accomplished and how he has grown as a globally engaged scholar,” Hayashida said.

Esther Elia

Esther Elia

Elia has a special connection to her even more special research. She is diving into the history, culture and relationships of the Assyrian experience, specifically with its prayer bowls.

“I chose my topic of research because of my personal connection to the Assyrian experience. It impacts my daily life and needs larger visibility. Because we are stateless, it is up to us to write of our own experiences, to share our own histories with the world,” Elia said. “It is easy to be passionate about my culture because of this. I share in the responsibility of many to make sure our voices are heard and our culture is preserved.”

Elia’s grandparents fled during a genocide of their people in the early 1900’s, which decimated their village. Still, through the power of the Assyrian incantation bowls, researchers like Elia are working to reconstruct the beliefs and sacred words of the Assyrian people. 

“The goal of this research is to continue to create curiosity about Assyrian culture and people, while also providing some answers. It is also to create solidarity between people groups that have had similar experiences historically,” Elia said.

In furthering this solidarity, Elia will be returning to Iraq to speak with Assyrian potters, and streamline a newfound trans-indigenous connection through clay and prayer.

Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing John Abbott says her upcoming teachings of clay harvesting and building techniques with her own people is something to be celebrated.

“Esther’s work ethic is unparalleled, as evidenced by the articulation of her ideas and    ambitious projects,” Abbott said. “I am in awe of the imagery, materiality, scale and societal impacts resulting from Esther’s passionate research on Assyrian Identity in the diaspora and the Assyrian experience. Esther’s work is vital to the Assyrian community.”

A big congrats to each award recipient and their futures. The awardees will be recognized in a ceremony honoring research success during Research & Discovery Week in November.