Two Penn students won a $10,000 award for their work on an organization that is bringing together American and Middle Eastern students from the comforts of their own dorm rooms.
College and Wharton seniors Cobi Blumenfeld-Gantz and Corey Metzman received a Kathryn Wasserman Davis Project for Peace award for Dorm Room Diplomacy, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships announced on Thursday. DRD, which they founded together as sophomores in 2009, seeks to build cultural understanding on a personal level through video dialogue sessions between students in the Middle East and the U.S.
The award is one of 100 given by Davis’ initiative, and places the pair in an impressive line of Penn winners that includes the Dut Jok Youth Foundation and the microfinance website LendforPeace.org.
DRD is already an established organization on campus, serving 40-60 Penn students per semester. The organization also has chapters at five other U.S. colleges, and partner schools in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, according to Blumenfeld-Gantz.
The dialogue sessions, which occur in groups of four U.S. students and four Middle Eastern students, are held five to seven times per semester and discuss issues including American foreign policy, political conflict and current events. Participants stay in the same groups over the course of a term.
This year, 12 other projects applied to CURF for the grant, said Associate Director for Fellowships Cheryl Shipman.
CURF reviews the applications and then recommends one project to the Davis program, as well as an alternate.
In addition to paying for their video-conferencing equipment and software, Blumenfeld-Gantz and Metzman plan to use the grant money to fund a summer trip to the region, where they will visit some of their partner schools and attempt to expand to new ones.
“We’re surprised and thrilled,” Metzman said. “It is a great award that gives us the opportunity to grow and sustain our work here and on other campuses.”
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