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Cynthia Browne, who was the Anthropology Department's Outstanding Senior in Social-cultural Anthropology in 2005, has received another honor. She has won an Undergraduate Research Award from the American Academy of Political and Social Science for her research on the Ugandan Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Project (NECDP).

The following is a description of her paper, as taken from the comments of the external reviewers:


Cynthia Browne's comparison of participatory health development projects is a strong paper. Her main question is how to employ participatory health projects in order to avoid the pitfalls (as identified by feminist and postmodern theorists) of top-down modernist development, and to achieve community empowerment and sustained change. Her solution is to follow a Freirean methodology when setting up participatory development projects, an alternative that has been attempted many times over several decades. Browne's analysis of the Ugandan Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Project (NECDP) is, then, an original example of an old quandary: how to get powerful, large-scale organizations to take into account the perceptions and knowledge of the powerless whom they are attempting to help.

1. The paper's greatest strength is the obviously extensive ethnographic research that forms the foundation of the argument. The author describes a remarkable, illustrative case study of the consequences of failing to employ participatory methods when setting up research and project priorities, and when acting on research findings. She argues that the NECDP failed to take account of local knowledge regarding cultural food practices, misread political/community boundaries, and ignored endemic political factionalism. Browne also has a good handle on the three alternative case studies to which she compares the Ugandan NECDP.

2. Browne uses the comparative framework -- a suitable methodology to explore the Ugandan NECDP's weaknesses, and to show that there are successful alternatives. She could strengthen her argument, however, by emphasizing the comparative aspect of her paper more than she does in this draft. Browne spends more time discussing the failures of paternalistic development theories and strategies, based on literature written between the 1960s and 1980s, than she does on direct comparative analysis. Moreover, she does not control for differences in social, cultural, and political context that might account for the differences in how the four projects applied participatory theory.

3. Browne puts her finger on the crucial difficulties of cooperative long-term social change, and points to a strong Freirean philosophical tradition to suggest ways to improve participatory social projects. What is missing from this paper is an analysis of how to make that Freirean theory work in large-scale organizations. Nonetheless, the argument and the evidence are here, and a thorough revision would make the writing clearer and the argument stronger. Most importantly, Browne could rework the paper's structure. It is not until page 14, for example, that she turns to the literatures on "empowerment theory" and "conscientization" which not only help explain her views on the shortfalls of the Ugandan NECDP, but also provide a recent, sophisticated theoretical framework for her suggestions on how to improve development/empowerment projects in the future. The reader wishes she had, at the very least, mentioned this turn in the argument in her introduction. Perhaps more helpful would be to begin with this literature -- pointing in the author's preferred theoretical and practical direction -- and then to use the Ugandan case study as an illustration of how development projects are still falling into the traps that theorists identified decades ago.

4. The three alternative participatory health projects successfully effected what the author refers to as the psychosocial facets of community change. She raises the question here about whether the psychosocial goals of personal and community empowerment can satisfy the goals of politicians and large-scale institutions, which tend to demand more short-term quantifiable results. This critical question, however, remains unresolved. She concludes that public policy makers need to change their attitudes toward participatory processes; they must not use participation as a public relations ploy, she suggests, but must instead set "stricter guidelines" to make participatory method conform more closely to "its . . . roots in Freirean philosophy." Browne's suggestion, it seems, holds the potential for changing the practice of health development projects, but only if public officials and administrators can be convinced that they must change their ways. An analysis of this problem is missing from the paper.

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The Richard Smalley Legacy
  Nobel laureate Richard Smalley, co-discoverer of the buckyball and one of the best-known and respected scientists in nanotechnology, died in Houston in October 2005 after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Smalley, who joined Rice University in 1976, shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with fellow Rice chemist Robert Curl and British chemist Sir Harold Kroto for the discovery of buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyballs,” a previously unknown third form of carbon. He is survived by his wife, Deborah Smalley; two sons, Chad and Preston; a brother, Clayton; two sisters, Linda and Mary Jill; stepdaughters Eva and Allison; granddaughter Bridget; and a host of friends and relatives.

“We will miss Rick’s brilliance, commitment, energy, enthusiasm, and humanity,” Rice president David Leebron said. “He epitomized what we value at Rice: pathbreaking research, commitment to teaching, and contribution to the betterment of our world. In important ways, Rick helped build and shape the Rice University of today. His extraordinary scientific contributions, recognized with the Nobel Prize, will form the foundation of new technologies that will improve life for millions. His life’s work and his brave fight against a terrible disease were an inspiration to all.”