MSIM student wins fellowship to travel the world

By Shanzay Shabi Friday, September 1, 2023

Erica Adams is preparing for the trip of a lifetime: eight countries in eight months.

Adams, a Mid-Career Master of Science in Information Management student specializing in user experience and cybersecurity, will travel to countries across Africa and Asia, experiencing different cultures as a recipient of the prestigious Bonderman Fellowship.

Each year, a select group of University of Washington students are provided a rare opportunity to independently travel the world and visit four to eight countries as Bonderman fellows. The fellowship offers students the chance to engage in independent exploration and travel abroad, empowering them to expand their understanding of the world. 

The Bonderman Fellowship is highly competitive and requires candidates to submit a series of application questions to assess which students demonstrate self-knowledge and interpersonal and cross-cultural interests, among other skills. A committee of past Bonderman fellows, faculty and staff review applications and choose the recipients. 

“I feel really grateful and honored to be amongst this year’s Bonderman fellows. Especially being a Black woman of color, there aren’t that many opportunities of this type of solo travel available for us, so I hold deep gratitude for the Bonderman Fellowship for opening doors like this,” said Adams.

Adams, who has loved traveling since childhood, decided to maximize the opportunity and plans to travel to eight countries: Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand. 

The theme of Adams’ trip is community building around music. Her interest in music and culture and her background in international studies and user experience research have motivated her to expand the scope of her knowledge and interests beyond the United States.

“As an aspiring UX researcher, I want to get better at talking to people and observing human behavior outside of the U.S. I feel like my life is very insular and I’m hoping to expand my world beyond the life I’ve always known,” said Adams. “I'm especially excited about going to Africa because when I was a kid there were some really problematic media portrayals of Africa, so I’m hoping to change those views and share my experiences with my friends and family.”

While solo traveling around the world is no easy feat, Adams believes her experiences at the iSchool have helped prepare her for her long trip abroad.

“The iSchool continues to help my growth and my ability to think critically. I am also now better equipped with the awareness of cybersecurity and how to secure myself while traveling like through two-factor authentication,” said Adams. “Additionally, the projects where I had to interview people in my research methods classes have made me more confident and strengthened my people skills.”

“Erica is passionate in her advocacy for her peers and works to create spaces that encourage academic excellence and inclusiveness,” said Adams’ academic advisor, Rebecca Alhadeff. “I know she will bring that same compassion and drive to her Bonderman grant and wherever her next journey takes her.” 

Starting in October, Adams will embark on her journey of music, culture and learning, surely to return with lots of stories of her travels. Keep an eye on the iSchool's Instagram page to see glimpses of Adams’ travels.