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A Global Context for an American Crisis

Circumnavigators Award recipient to study sexual assault on campus in five countries

  • SESP student to travel to Brazil, Netherlands, Egypt, South Africa and Australia
  • Project aims to determine best practices for handling sexual assault on college campuses
  • The $9,000 award funds a 10-week global summer research trip

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Jonathon McBride, a junior at Northwestern University, will travel in his role as the 2015 Circumnavigators Travel-Study Award winner to five countries this summer to examine various university responses to sexual assault on campus.

Offered jointly by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Chicago Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club, the $9,000 award funds a 10-week global summer research trip. The recipient must visit at least five countries on three continents.

McBride, a social policy and biological sciences major in the School of Education and Social Policy, hopes to provide data towards a global discussion of best practices regarding the handling of sexual assault on campuses throughout the world.

His project “The American Sexual Assault Crisis in a Global Context: Policies, Resources, and Student Engagement” will investigate university policies and resources for sexual assault on campus in Brazil, Netherlands, Egypt, South Africa and Australia.

“Increasing media attention has focused on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses recently, but there’s a lack of discussion on how to make things better,” McBride said.

At each university, McBride will examine sexual assault policies, the resources that deal with sexual assault and student engagement. His research will record best and worst practices for handling sexual assault cases on campus in order to foster discussion about what can be done to combat the issue. 

“The project grows out of the work I have done on Northwestern’s campus with MARS (Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault),” McBride said. MARS is a group that works to create a healthier and safer campus environment by facilitating discussion about sexual assault. The student organization helps men understand sexual assault as an issue that both men and women can engage themselves in understanding and preventing.

“Northwestern gave me the opportunity to get involved with MARS and start wondering how other universities handle sexual assault,” McBride said. “This project is deeply important to me, and I hope that the results can be useful to MARS, the Northwestern community and all universities.” 

Among other mentors, McBride sought guidance from Nick Davis, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies and English and current director of graduate studies in gender and sexuality studies at Northwestern.

“I was impressed with his priorities, his moral sense, his unpretentious eloquence, and his expertise from the moment he visited me in my office months ago,” Davis said. “I was elated to endorse his application. I am thrilled he won the grant and I see it as an ideal case of converting one's intellectual interests and extra-curricular commitments into an urgently practical context.”

Davis believes McBride’s work in MARS has made him a campus leader ready to effect positive change in his community.

“Jonathon reminds me of many Northwestern students who cultivate the best in themselves in order to take on problems that are bigger than themselves and bigger than any of us,” Davis said. “I very much admire that about the students here, and I hope stories like these encourage more undergraduates to really commit themselves to issues they care about and to seek opportunities for making an impact.”

The rigorous selection process of the Circumnavigators grant motivates students of varying majors and backgrounds to submit sophisticated independent research project proposals. Non-winning applicants are encouraged to revise their proposals to apply for summer undergraduate research grants, Fulbright scholarships and other opportunities.

The Circumnavigators Club Foundation was established in 1964 as a philanthropic and educational organization to enable members of the Circumnavigators Club to provide financial support to programs that further the Club's mission of improving international relations through friendship and understanding.

The Foundation partners with a small number of universities across the country to offer the scholarship. Northwestern partially funds the grant and, therefore, is able to award it each year.

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