The Alexia Student Grants: Nathaniel Brunt on his Syracuse Semester

The Ahmed family at their home In Chittybandi. (Spring 2013). From Nathaniel Brunt’s 2016 First Place Student Project, #shaheed: A Study of the War in the Kashmir Valley.

Every year, since its founding in 1991, The Alexia Foundation has awarded five Student Grants. The First Place Student Winner receives a $1000 cash grant for his or her proposed project. His or her academic department also receives $500. All student winners become a part of the Alexia family, and are able to enjoy our community for all the years to come.

Perhaps the most important opportunity the First Place Student Grant offers is tuition for a semester at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Not only does this portion of the prize recall Alexia Tsairis, who was a student at Syracuse University at the time of her death, but it is also equivalent to a semester-long fellowship or residency at Syracuse. It is a time to take classes in areas of interest, work on projects and further develop skills with the support of a world-class faculty. The semester does not need to be a part of a degree seeking sequence.

“The experience of being at Syracuse University has allowed me to connect with an amazing range of professors, editors, and photographers. This has opened up opportunities and allowed me to expand my professional academic and photographic network,” said 2016 Alexia Student Winner Nathaniel Brunt about his semester this past fall.

Thousands of people gather in Kakapora, Kashmir for the funeral of 21 year old Talib Ahmed Shah, a Kashmiri Lashkar-e-Taiba militant. (Summer 2015) Nathaniel Brunt/Alexia Foundation

Brunt’s time at Syracuse counted as part of his coursework towards his PhD at Ryerson University in Toronto. Brunt took a joint anthropology and religion course at Syracuse’s Maxwell School entitled, Memory, Culture and Religion, which explored the tension between collective memory and history during and after war, a topic clearly aligned with Brunt’s work in the Kashmir Valley. He worked on a research project for the class about several private archives of rare photographs produced during the beginning of the conflict in Kashmir in the early 1990’s, a undertaking which will inform his own work about the issue.

Brunt also used his semester to map his PhD project, a continuation of #shaheed, the work for which he received his Alexia grant, with help from Syracuse University Alexia Chair Mike Davis.

“I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity to work under the guidance of Mike Davis, which has been a formative experience for me as both a visual storyteller and educator,” said Brunt.

Further, while at Newhouse, Brunt taught a weekly undergraduate/graduate lab called Visual Storytelling for Mike Davis. He found the students with whom he worked to be a highly talented group of individuals who constantly impressed him. He was inspired by their expansion of traditional documentary photography by using techniques like data visualization, archival material and collaborative approaches as well as by the passionate and insightful discussions the students were having about contemporary issues facing documentary photography.

Brunt’s semester represents exactly what we hope First Place winners get from their time at Syracuse – a tailored experience where one’s skills, horizons and connections are broadened. We encourage all students to apply for The Alexia Grants for a chance at this incredible opportunity. Applying for the Student Grants is free. The deadline is Mar. 1, 2018.

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