Architecture senior wins Wallenberg Fellowship to study refugee camps


Architecture student Bjørnar Haveland will be awarded the 2015 Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship that will support his yearlong study of two of the world’s oldest refugee camps, and help him develop ways to improve the quality of life in the settlements.

Established three years ago, the $25,000 fellowship is awarded each spring to an exceptional graduating senior at U-M who is committed to service and the public good.

Bjørnar Haveland

Haveland plans to use his fellowship to travel to refugee camps in Resheideh, Lebanon, and Dadaab, Kenya. He became interested in the settlements while volunteering with the Norwegian Peace Corps for three months at a camp in Algeria.

“I want to interact meaningfully by wholeheartedly participating in daily life, by contributing where I have skills to share and to learn from the people around me,” Haveland said in his application essay. “Ultimately, I hope what I learn will allow me and others I share my experiences with to engage in work that will improve people’s living conditions.”

The fellowship honors Raoul Wallenberg, who worked as a Swedish diplomat after earning a degree in architecture at U-M in 1935. He is credited with saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives in Budapest during the Holocaust.

Melissa Harris, who wrote a recommendation letter for Haveland, said he has poise and diplomacy beyond his years.

“He is self-motivated, curious, open and best of all, not frenetic or tattooed to technology. He is a humanist of sorts. He values the face-to-face discussion over just about everything,” said Harris, an associate professor at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Haveland was one of three finalists nominated by their school or college and interviewed by the Wallenberg Fellowship Committee. The others were Paola Mendez and Layne Vandenberg, both in LSA.

“The committee was greatly impressed by the thoughtfulness and high quality of the proposals it reviewed, and by the accomplishments and promise of the students who committed themselves to developing, during a very busy senior year, bold projects of exploration and engaged learning,” said John Godfrey, assistant dean of international education at the Rackham Graduate School.

Haveland will be the third Wallenberg Fellow. Zachary Petroni received the first fellowship in 2013 for a year in Kenya to examine how local communities are affected by environmental protections that limit their access to resources, and Lily Bonadonna was the 2014 Wallenberg Fellow and is in Peru seeking to understand the impact that endemic tuberculosis has on communities in poor urban neighborhoods.

U-M alumnus Bert Askwith created the Mary Sue Coleman Endowed Fund for the Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship to support future generations of U-M students inspired by Wallenberg’s legacy and to honor Coleman’s leadership during her tenure as a U-M president. In addition, U-M parents Jon and Lili Bosse made a generous gift to launch the Wallenberg Fellowship.


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