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Research grant helps doctoral student improve dissertation

Jessica Frazier

The new Wheeler/Nieman Research Grant helped put doctoral student Jessica Frazier, the grant's first recipient, in the right place at the right time.

Leigh Ann Wheeler, associate professor of history, and Donald G. Nieman, professor of history and then dean of Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, established the grant to support graduate student research on the history of women, gender and sexuality.

Frazier says the research grant she received paid for her more than two-week trip to New Mexico and California in January. There, she pored over organizational pamphlets and other records in the archives at The University of New Mexico, UCLA and Stanford University.

The title of her dissertation is "Looking to Viet Nam: Transnational U.S. Women Activists and the Meanings of Race, Gender, and Revolution, 1965-1975."

Frazier's work focuses on American women who traveled to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. In the 1960s and '70s, U.S. women activists in the peace movement and in liberation struggles turned to Vietnamese women for fellowship and inspiration, she says.

Peace activists saw Vietnamese women as collaborators against war and violence, while African-American, Chicana and Asian-American women in their respective liberation movements viewed Vietnamese women as fellow revolutionaries, Frazier says.

During her research trip, an archivist in Albuquerque, N.M., put Frazier in touch with a woman in the region who traveled to Vietnam in 1974, six months before South Vietnam fell to the North.

The resulting interview from that meeting gave Frazier a first-person account of changes that occurred in Vietnam at the time. The information now makes up a critical part of the introduction to Frazier's dissertation.

Without the funding, "it would have been a lot more difficult," Frazier says about her trip. "I don't know if I would have gone. The fact I got that interview was really key."

Wheeler says she and Nieman, who is her husband, "know graduate students live on a very tight budget."

"We both remember how difficult it was when you needed to travel to do research and you didn't have any money," Nieman says about their $20,000 commitment. "We thought that providing a grant that would support outstanding students ... would be a great investment."

Frazier expects to finish her dissertation next spring.

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Last Updated: 1/8/14