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Loyola University New Orleans Announces Fourth Fulbright Scholar

Loyola press release - July 17, 2015

Seven thousand miles, two journeys, four years of hard work and a Fulbright allows Loyola Music Industry Studies graduate to preserve the dying heritage of a nomadic culture

Loyola University New Orleans announces a fourth undergraduate student to receive a prestigious Fulbright Award during the 2014-2015 academic year, marking a record-breaking year for the university. Nearly one-third of the 14 Loyola students who applied for a Fulbright Award this year received one. Dimitri Staszewski of San Francisco, one of a handful in the nation to receive an ultra-elite Fulbright-mTVu Award, will use his award to return to Mongolia and continue to document what ethnologists see as a changing nomadic culture.

“I realized that I wanted to document and help preserve music performed by herders and former herders because that is the cultural context from which all of the country’s traditional music originated,” Staszewski said in his Fulbright application. “Even Mongolians who live in the city will attest to the fact that, even though they are not herders, some part of the nomadic herder identity in the music resonates with them and speaks to their own sense of identity.”

Staszewski, a recording engineer, producer and aspiring filmmaker who graduated from Loyola in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies, was selected for a 2015-16 Fulbright-mTVu Award to Mongolia. Fulbright mTVu Awards are available to all countries where there is an active Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients’ projects must center around research on an aspect of international musical culture, and should focus on contemporary or popular music as a cultural force for expression, according to program materials.

“Dimitri's recordings of Mongolian herders are remarkable and engaging, and I am not surprised at all that Fulbright and mTVu would want to support the expansion of his remarkable ethnomusicology project," said Laura Murphy, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and adviser to Loyola's Fulbright applicants. “The Fulbright-mTVu Award program is very selective. Only four or five winners are chosen every year. This is a huge Loyola win!”

When Staszewski began his academic career five years ago, he never imagined he would travel 7,000 miles across the globe to document the disappearing nomadic traditions of Mongolian sheep herders. Then the aspiring filmmaker spent a month living among the country’s native tribes filming and experiencing firsthand the culture he’d only previously known through books and articles.

Staszewski travelled in 2013 to Mongolia, where he stayed with a nomadic family in the Mongolian countryside, herding and sheep wrangling. He conducted interviews, took photographs and made video recordings of Mongolians singing and performing music particular to their homeland.

More than half of the Mongolian population has already shifted away from traditionally nomadic lifestyles, according to Staszewski. Inspired by his Loyola studies and a mind-opening cross-country trip he took with Outward Bound, he raised funds in advance of the trip, both from campus sources and through a Kickstarter campaign. While there, he gathered 20 hours of footage and wrote occasional blog posts. From there, he created a website, which he decided would be more a flexible medium for his work.

When he returned to Loyola, Staszewski used two state-of-the-art recording studios at Loyola, where he was a teaching assistant, to begin refining his work. In order to graduate with University Honors at Loyola, undergraduates must prepare a year-long thesis project and Staszewski set for himself that goal. He achieved it.

He ultimately decided that he would produce video performances and interviews which highlight various types of Mongolian music, specifically singing, Staszewski told New Orleans-based NPR-radio news station WWNO in an interview at the time.

Staszewski now uses these recordings to inform his writing and says he plans to accompany each future video he produces with a short story about the recording experience and an explanation of the singing style being presented.

His work is far-reaching and expansive, said Loyola Professor of Music History Alice Clark, who served as Staszewski’s academic adviser.

“I think he sees one of his goals as preserving a tradition that will almost inevitably be changed by the growing contact with western traditions,” Clark said. “Certainly the possibility of documenting the culture as it stands now, before it becomes either mixed with others or ossified as a museum tradition, is an important task, and I could see Dimitri’s materials becoming useful for scholars and others as time goes on.”

Stazeswski’s unique vision, his Music Industry Studies background at Loyola and Loyola University Honors were a winning combination, administrators said. Loyola’s Music Industry Studies program places an emphasis on providing students critical business skills and understanding required to be successful in the music industry. Students may pursue either a Bachelor of Music in Music Industry Studies degree or a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies degree, depending on their future career interests and areas of focus.

In May, Loyola announced that Molly Alper ‘14, Joseph Patrick Dougherty ‘14 and Mara Steven ‘15 are among the more than 1,900 students offered an opportunity to travel and study abroad for the 2015-16 academic year. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. Alper, Dougherty and Steven will respectively travel on Fulbright Awards to South America to do research on human sex trafficking, and to teach in Indonesia and Tajikistan.

Nearly one-third of the 14 Loyola students who applied for a Fulbright Award this year attained one, a fact that Murphy attributes to Loyola’s outstanding academic environment and dedicated resources to student success.

“The Fulbright is one of the most prestigious awards an undergraduate can win," Murphy said. "We are so incredibly proud of all 14 students who put together brilliant and highly competitive applications this year. This is the highest number of Fulbright winners Loyola has ever had. In the last few years, Loyola has dedicated additional effort to guiding students through the competitive process of applying for major awards like the Fulbright and the Rhodes. These wins are a very visible sign of the excellent educations and one-on-one attention our students receive here at Loyola."

Learn More:

To read more about Loyola's 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholars, click here.

To read more about Loyola's esteemed Music Industry Studies program, click here.

To learn more about Loyola University's Honors program, click here.

To see some of Dimitri Staszewski's videos of Mongolian sheep herders singing, click here.

To hear Dimitri Staszewski and David Woodall describe Loyola's state-of-the-art recording studios, click here.

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