May 30, 2023 Architecture Graduate Awarded 2023–24 Fulbright
Gabriel Laos, a recent graduate of the architecture master’s program, has been selected for a 2023–24 Fulbright award. He is one of 11 students and recent graduates from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, selected for the prestigious honor.
The Fulbright Program, the largest US international exchange program facilitating research abroad, awards recipients based on their academic and professional accomplishments, as well as their record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.
The College of Architecture and Design has a long tradition of student participation in Fulbright awards since the Fulbright US Student Program was founded in 1946. Recent awardees from the college include Cullen Sayegh (‘19) in 2022, Mike Lidwin (‘20), Amanda Gann (‘12, ‘14), and Geghie Alayna Davis (‘20) in 2020 and Dillion Dunn (‘18) in 2018.
Laos will travel to Namibia, a coastal country in Southwest Africa, in hopes of designing a model of a rural agricultural empowerment center that gives small-scale agricultural entities an opportunity to borrow machinery, use processing equipment, package and refrigerate their wares, and transport their goods to market. He will be affiliated with Namibian University of Science and Technology in Windhoek.
Laos’ proposal is inspired by his family farm in rural Peru, located outside Lima where he was born. His project aims to enhance the economic status of residents in the Namibian countryside.
“If something breaks down, you’re going to pray and hope you can get the part because otherwise you have to rip up the whole thing and start from scratch,” he said. “I want to control that initial part of facilitating production. You can lend out equipment almost like a library.”
Laos frequently visits Peru and has seen a rapid change in people migrating towards cities. While the two countries have different population densities, he fears the ecological impacts that he sees in Peru could be easily translated to countries such as Namibia.
“I do not want people to lose a respect for the countryside and the way of life, because these people came from the countryside. They too have their own little farms up in the mountains of Peru and my point of view is that they are paying far too dear a price for what they consider to be modernity and progress. There are indices of this in certain parts of Windhoek where you do see those concerns,” he said.
This year UT had 40 Fulbright applicants and 25 semifinalists. Seven students were named alternates and will receive awards if placements become available in the coming months.