W&L’s Ava Boussy ’23 Awarded Fulbright to India Boussy has been awarded a Fulbright-Nehru research grant to study Buddhist shrines and temples in India.
Washington and Lee University senior Ava Boussy ’23 has been awarded a Fulbright-Nehru research grant to study Buddhist shrines and temples in Ladakh, India. At W&L, Boussy is double majoring in biology and art history. Boussy is a native of Westminster, Maryland, and graduated from Westminster High School.
The Fulbright-Nehru research grant provides recipients with the opportunity to conduct individually designed research projects in India. Boussy will be expanding on research she has been conducting since her freshman year at W&L, combining science, technology, engineering, math and humanities instruction to conduct laser-scanning and create digital models of Buddhist shrines and temples in Ladakh.
“I’m interested in examining different ways we can use digital media to make certain fields of study more accessible to a wider population,” Boussy said. “I want to explore how digital records can help us preserve cultural heritage and historic sites for study, while allowing the actual sites to be updated and renovated for the populations that still use and worship in these spaces.”
Boussy first “learned the ropes” of 3D modeling during her freshman year, when she assisted George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor in the Arts at W&L, with his research project, “Florence As It Was.” This digital project aims to reconstruct the city of Florence, Italy the way it appeared at the end of the 15th century.
“During my nearly 30-year career at W&L, few — if any — students have been as impressive as Ava, and I cannot exaggerate her importance to the ‘Florence As It Was’ initiative,” Bent said. “She will tell you she is only part of a larger team and might even minimize her own contributions to the work out of a sincere sense of modesty. But do not misinterpret her genuine humility as an accurate representation of the gifts she possesses, the drive that propels her forward, or the skills she employs daily to complete tasks large and small. Ava Boussy is the real deal — you just won’t catch her admitting to it.”
Boussy is looking forward to returning to Ladakh, where she joined Melissa Kerin, W&L associate professor of art history and Boussy’s thesis advisor, on a research trip during her junior year to digitally document Buddhist shrines and altar spaces. This experience helped her develop a better understanding of the nuances and complexities of cultural preservation, and she was able to familiarize herself with the technical challenges of this type of project, such as uneven walls, irregular measurements and damaged architectural structures. Kerin was impressed by the way Boussy navigated these challenges and kept a good-natured spirit throughout the process.
“Ava is a tenacious and driven student with a capacity to learn quickly and an even more impressive ability to problem-solve in the most arduous of circumstances and remote of places,” Kerin said. “She understands that one cannot simply enter a village and expect to document its sacred center and that there are subtle and complex relations that need to be developed over time. Having a year in the Ladakh area will allow for building a rapport with the community and the caregiver of the temple.”
On campus, Boussy is a member of the women’s soccer team and Chi Omega sorority. She is grateful for the mentorship she has received from W&L’s faculty members and the way they helped support her interdisciplinary interests and encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright grant.
“Being awarded a Fulbright speaks volumes about the quality of the support system I have around me, and how lucky I’ve been to have ended up in the W&L community,” she said. “It is a huge honor to be a Fulbright scholar and it will allow me to be a small part of the preservation of cultural heritage and making art history a more accessible field.”
With the Fulbright award, Boussy will depart in August for an orientation in New Delhi, then spend the following nine months in Ladakh. Upon completion of the program, Boussy plans to continue working in data visualization and digital modeling.
The Fulbright Program was established more than 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Washington and Lee University is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Students for the fifth consecutive year.
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