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April 9, 2024

Doctoral student awarded prestigious fellowship for peace and education research

Kasun Gajasinghe, a doctoral student in the Michigan State University College of Education’s Curriculum Instruction and Teacher Education Ph.D. program has been awarded the Witness Institute Fellowship. The 15-month fellowship is dedicated to continuing the work of human rights activist Elie Wiesel and is awarded to emerging leaders poised to engage in contemporary issues through interdisciplinary study and building cultures that nurture understanding across difference.

Kasun Gajasinghe

“Given the global resurgence of ethnonationalist violence, expansion of global racial capitalism, militarization and anthropogenic climate change, ideas of peace need to be rethought to imagine futures otherwise,” said Kasun. “I think this fellowship will be an excellent opportunity for me to venture into this direction with other fellows.”

His research explores the intersections of curriculum, coloniality and language politics, focusing on colonial presences in post-colonial education in Sri Lanka. He is also interested in understanding the entanglements of institutionalized religions, public education and state violence.

In 2022, he co-authored a study published by "Emerald" examining the interplay between religious and linguistic nationalism in Sri Lanka – focusing on the controversy surrounding the singing of the national anthem in Tamil during National Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka.

He is one of ten individuals to be awarded the Witness Institute Fellowship this year. The fellows will participate in cohort meetings, semi-annual retreats and small group study sessions. Each fellow must complete a summative project centered on promoting peace, human rights and social justice. Kasun will explore discourses on peace in post-independence Sri Lanka.

A part of belonging

Kasun first arrived in the United States as a Fulbright Scholar to pursue his master’s degree. He began his doctoral studies at the College of Education during the pandemic and was impressed with how faculty in the Department of Teacher Education stayed connected with the graduate students and checked in every step of the way.

“It’s an amazing Ph.D. program because of its kind and caring people, the staff, professors and fellow graduate students” he said. “I am fortunate and grateful for having the opportunity to learn from amazing scholars in the CITE program, more specifically Sandro Barros, my advisor; Lynn Fendler; Mary Juzwik; Alex Allweiss and Shireen Al-Adeimi whose work and values inspire me.” He is also grateful to Carrie Symons – his first-year advisor – who continues to support him and encouraged him to apply for the Witness Institute Fellowship.

In addition to his role as a student, Kasun teaches courses such as International Education and Migration and Education.

This story originally appeared on the College of Education website. 

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