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W&L Senior Eric Shuman Receives Fulbright Research Grant

Washington and Lee University senior Eric Shuman of Black Mountain, N.C., has received a Fulbright research grant to Israel. His project is “Can Anger Lead to Conflict Resolution? Redirecting Anger Responses to Promote Peace.”

“After speaking with both Israelis and Palestinians about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while I was living in Bethlehem and traveling in the area, I realized that there was a facet of this conflict that is often overlooked,” Shuman said. “Most people I spoke with focused their descriptions of the conflict on their personal and emotional reactions,” rather than geopolitical or religious aspects as did politicians or the media.

Shuman will be working with Dr. Eran Halperin, one of the leading psychologists studying emotions and the role they play in conflicts, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Halperin’s lab is at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

Some of Halperin’s most compelling research has shown that under certain conditions anger can be constructive. He and his colleagues conducted a study that revealed that anger toward Palestinians felt by Jewish Israeli adults actually increased support for compromises during peace negotiations, but only in participants who had low levels of hatred.

“Eric has dedicated his incredible ambition and passion for psychology to making a real difference in the Israel-Palestine conflict and beyond,” said Dan Johnson, assistant professor of psychology. “While winning the prestigious Fulbright does not come as a surprise to anyone who has worked closely with him, we know it will help him realize his admirable goals. Eric has demonstrated his leadership potential in the department for a number of years, and we look forward to seeing what he decides to do.”

“Research about anger indicates that it can be expressed two different ways: destructively, through aggression and violence, or constructively, through compromise and dialogue leading to reconciliation,” said Shuman. “Through my Fulbright research, I aim to expand upon the findings of Dr. Halperin in the studies carried out over my nine months in Israel. At his lab, I will benefit from his advice and direction as I build upon his current work.”

While Shuman lived with a Palestinian family in Bethlehem, West Bank, during the summer of 2012, he studied Palestinian Arabic, regional issues and traveled around the West Bank, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

“The place that stuck with me the most is Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (The Oasis of Peace), a cooperative village of Jewish and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel,” said Shuman. “Visiting and talking with the residents of this village gave me hope that reconciliation and peace are possible.”

Shuman will graduate with a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in global politics. For his psychology honors thesis, he developed an independent research project investigating the role of national identification and anger about social injustice in promoting collective action to correct injustice.

While at W&L, Shuman has been a peer tutor for English, politics, psychology and religion and through English as a Second Language, has tutored an Egyptian couple in English, focusing on conversational fluency, writing and grammar. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society, Psi Chi psychology honor society and is on the dean’s list and honor roll and is a scholar-athlete.

Shuman is captain of varsity swimming and has been a member of the varsity swim team since his freshman year. He belongs to Preparing for Tomorrow Leadership committee, Student Association for International Learning and Active Minds, which seeks to raise awareness about mental health issues. He was political chair of the New Hampshire delegation to the 2012 Mock Convention.

After his Fulbright year in Israel, he will most likely be pursuing a Ph.D. in social psychology, but is not entirely sure yet.

“I am delighted, though not surprised, that Eric won a Fulbright to travel and do research in Israel,” said Julie Woodzicka, professor of psychology. “He possesses a mix of intelligence, maturity, perseverance and resourcefulness that guarantees his success. He is one of our brightest. I am also confident that Eric will be a wonderful ambassador. He is extremely knowledgeable of the culture, has lived in the Middle East and speaks Arabic. Eric was fortunate to receive a Fulbright, but Fulbright should also feel fortunate to have Eric in their program.”

Sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program.