Bonderman Travel Fellowship

“The Bonderman: an invitation to step off the so-called path I was on. A gift of observation, solitude, challenge and of possibility.”
-Chelsea Affleck (2018 Fellow)

Each year a select group of UW students are provided a rare opportunity to independently travel the world as Bonderman Fellows. David Bonderman, a UW alumnus, created the Bonderman Travel Fellowship in 1995, and it has funded life-changing global journeys for more than 295 students thus far.  

This year, a new cohort of Bonderman Fellows was selected in the midst of unusual and difficult times. While UW Bonderman travel is currently on hiatus, the intention and spirit of the Bonderman Fellowship – to get to know other people and cultures, to go beyond one’s comfort zone, and to see the world as bigger and more complex than before – are especially relevant now.  While we don’t know when the 2020 fellows will be able to travel, we look forward to seeing what they make of this unique opportunity.

The sixteen Bonderman Fellows of 2020 will travel to over sixty countries, spanning five continents collectively. Each fellow will independently explore at least two world regions and six countries during an eight-month journey. The broad vision of the Bonderman is to inspire individual transformation by expanding the fellow’s understanding of themselves and of the complex and interconnected world we live in. With this vision in mind, each fellow designs a unique travel plan without academic study, projects or research.  

Bonderman Fellows are encouraged to challenge their assumptions about the places they explore and people they meet during their journeys, and instead be open to new discoveries. Increasing our interactions with different people, cultures and places around the world has become increasingly important as technology has accelerated globalization and shaped our digital collective lens on the world. Learning about the world through travel and in-person interactions provides a varied, humane, and complicated understanding of individuals and communities across the world. 

About David Bonderman

For more than twenty years UW alumnus David Bonderman has annually supported UW students via travel fellowships that ask them to explore, be open to the unexpected, and come to know the world in new and unexpected ways. The University of Washington Bonderman Fellowship expanded its impact in 2017 with a $10 million endowment from David Bonderman.

Applying to the Bonderman Travel Fellowship

UW graduate students, professional students, and undergraduate students are eligible to apply for the Bonderman Travel Fellowship. The application process includes an essay, a proposed itinerary, and an interview with a selection committee composed of University of Washington faculty and staff, as well as former Bonderman Fellows. For more information, go to:

About the 2020 Fellows

Regions and countries to be explored:

Collectively, the 2020 Bonderman Fellows plan to travel to Peru, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Madagascar, Tanzania, Morocco, Brazil, Rwanda, India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, Indonesia, East Timor, Greenland, Iceland, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Argentina, Ecuador (Galapagos), Colombia, Vietnam, Mexico, Colombia, Malaysia, Turkey, UAE, South Africa, Trinidad, Mongolia, Botswana, Nepal, Bolivia, China, Uganda, Senegal, Grenada, Portugal, Spain, Namibia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, Tunisia, Czechia, and more.

While Bonderman Fellows don’t do research or study during their journeys, their travel interests are diverse. Below are some of the interests of the 2020 cohort:

  • Resilience and spirituality
  • Racial injustice and historical preservation
  • The relationship between place and identity
  • Religious homogeneity and tolerance
  • Informal and formal community governance
  • Art and tradition in the African diaspora
  • Ecosystem change and social adaptation
  • Community and individual healing, redemption and belief
  • Mixed identities

Undergraduate Fellow Profiles

Photo of Marco AmmatelliMarco Damien Ammatelli
Art: Painting and Drawing with College Honors
Hometown: Salida, CO
Guided by art as a medium for sharing felt-knowledge across barriers, borders, and changing environmental baselines, Marco will travel to expand his understanding of the human condition. Mindful of his imprints as he crosses a continuum of complex landscapes, he aspires to embrace uncertainty, connect with others from a place of humility and gratitude, and learn more about processes of healing. Although his exact itinerary is evolving, he anticipates visiting Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Rwanda, India, Cambodia, Laos, and China. In wandering the globe, he hopes to deconstruct his privilege, and in doing so, he hopes to clarify his vision for how he can best serve others moving forward.

Photo of Noah BakerNoah Baker
Biochemistry with Departmental Honors
Hometown: Monroe, WA
Noah hopes to obtain a more holistic view of the world by exploring and experiencing a multitude of diverse cultures, customs, geology, fauna, and flora. In his travels, He looks to witness the developmental processes these cultural and natural forces have on each other through their interactions. Some of Noah’s primary interests include the role of the environment with health disparities and climate change; he hopes to obtain a deeper perspective of the challenges individuals face in different environments. Noah hopes to travel to a multitude of diverse locations, including Mongolia, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Botswana, Madagascar, Argentina, and Ecuador.

Photo of Boi CasillasBoi (Gina) Casillas
Social Work; Comparative History of Ideas
Hometown: Joliet, IL
As a culturally mixed and non-binary person, Boi has been exoticised in their own country. Through the experience of being identified as various identities and cultures that are not theirs, they have learned the impact of exoticization, objectification, and patronization. Although misunderstandings are inevitable, it is a part of their ethic to treat others as experts of their own identity. Boi has a calling to use their strengths borne out of confusion, to forge a new path for mental health that focuses on that expertise. They hope to honor people who work to define their mixed identity. They challenge them-self to expand their ability to hold multitudes for others. As stated by Gloria Anzaldua, “To survive the Borderlands you must live sin fronteras (without borders), be a crossroads.” That is exactly what they intend to do. Boi intends to travel to places of cultural mixing such as South Africa, Brazil, Trinidad, and The United Arab Emirates.

Photo of Mason Clugston

Mason Clugston
Bioengineering with College Honors
Hometown: Corrales, NM
Mason is excited to explore his passion for insects and other arthropods, which he gained growing up in beautiful New Mexico. He is interested in learning about how biodiverse places are contested for economic, cultural, and agricultural reasons, and how communities and ecosystems are adapting to these tensions. He is also excited to explore international craft work and to get to know craftspeople wherever he goes. All the while, Mason hopes to push his comfort zone, eat good food, and expand his world view. He is currently planning on traveling through Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

Photo of Eileen DroletEileen Drolet
Biochemistry; Economics with Interdisciplinary Honors
Hometown: Boulder, CO
One focus of Eileen’s studies is environmental and natural resource economics and she wishes for a more nuanced international perspective on land-use and natural resource management. She’s excited to explore how the natural world is integrated into other cultures, reflect on sustainable cities and communities, and learn more about the interdisciplinary and intersectional work of environmental justice. In addition, she loves wildlife and plans to hike through many national parks and traverse a range of incredible landscapes and ecosystems. She hopes to travel to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Photo of Katie HeartherKatie Hearther
Oceanography; Marine Biology
Hometown: Honolulu, HI
Katie’s love for the ocean extends from the equator to the poles, so she will be traveling to sub-polar locations as well as low-lying tropical countries. She is excited to engage with local communities to explore themes of resilience, ecotourism, and hope in the face of climate change. Katie wants to learn how different people engage with, depend on, love, and destroy their environment. She is also eager to explore incredible, fragile ecosystems across the globe, and hopes to use her experiences to drive work in science communication and reconnecting people with their environment. She plans to visit Greenland, Iceland, Chile, the Galapagos, Indonesia, East Timor, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.

Photo of Dylan LoganDylan Logan
Atmospheric Sciences: Meterology
Hometown: Marysville, WA
Dylan has always been fascinated by extreme weather, and is now interested to see how it is changing. He hopes to witness how a variety of environments across the globe are changing, and observe first-hand how societies are being forced to adapt, as he believes exposure and experience are the best way to learn. Through this exposure, Dylan can better learn how to practice open-mindedness and empathy for those unlike him. He hopes his experiences abroad foster a sense of open-mindedness, creativity, and empathy that he can continue to practice long after the Bonderman. He currently plans to travel to Peru, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Morocco.

*One undergraduate Bonderman Fellow chose not to be publicly identified.

Graduate/Professional Fellow Profiles

Photo of Asha AbdulahiAsha Abdulahi
Social Work
Hometown: Lansing, MI
Asha has always been interested in seeking deep connection and self-reflection. She is looking forward to challenging her own narratives while also gaining spiritual growth. With a passion to support communities of color on a global level, Asha plans to explore the dynamics of religious homogeneity and tolerance. She is also excited to learn about the impact of civil unrest as well as the importance of healing. Asha hopes to travel to Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Rwanda, Zanzibar, and Senegal.

Photo of Elizabeth EsbornElizabeth Esborn
Public Affairs
Hometown: Sandwich, MA
Elizabeth has crafted her itinerary with the goal of exploring local governance and infrastructure, both formal and informal, in other cultures. As a policy student invested in building more responsive, inclusive, and accountable community governance systems, Elizabeth is excited to learn more about how communities outside of the U.S. approach these goals. She is also eager to visit libraries in each of the countries she visits, continuing a habit she has adopted in her travel within the U.S. Elizabeth plans to travel to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Turkey, Morocco, and the Czech Republic.

Phillip Russell
Creative Writing
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Phillip is interested in exploring how our identities are informed by the places we live. Traveling has always been an important part of his life — through it he feels we gain not only a better understanding of the world, but also of ourselves. He’d like to challenge himself to better understand what he is looking for in a community and, in turn, a landscape to call home by experiencing other cultures’ ways of living. He is especially interested in food as it relates to personal identity and is excited to try new things. His itinerary includes China, Japan, Morocco, Namibia, Portugal, and Vietnam.

Photo of Erin LeeErin B. J. Lee
Health Services
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Erin’s Bonderman application was inspired by her Black Digital Studies course taught by Dr. LaShawnDa Pittman, which focused on the role of historical archives, collections, research centers, and the influence and impact of digital technology on the preservation of Black history. On her journey, Erin hopes to explore the ways in which communities of color around the globe have collectively preserved their history in its relation to racial injustice. With this broad topic in mind, Erin hopes she is able to explore how these communities have chosen to share their stories of trauma and healing in a variety of mediums and across generations within and outside formal institutions. Erin hopes to travel to Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, South Africa, Rwanda, and Cambodia.

Photo of Channing NesbittChanning H. Nesbitt
Public Affairs
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Channing’s desire to obtain a deeper understanding of human connection has been his main inspiration for pursuing this fellowship. Channing’s areas of interest within this idea focus on healing, belief and redemption. Having the intention of complete immersion within the different communities in which he travels, he looks to discover and define his own story within these contexts. One overarching question that he has is: “how can we digest our own unique experience to better understand the universality that binds us together?”. Channing plans to ask this question as it relates to the places he travels and the individuals that he encounters. As we continue to move forward in a space of uncertainty, Channing finds it of great importance to ask how a greater understanding of connection and togetherness may provide pathways towards healing and redemption, for the individual and for the whole. Channing hopes to travel to Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Photo of Drew Pierce-StreetDrew Pierce-Street
Social Work
Motivated by her own experiences during adolescence and early adulthood, Drew’s Bonderman journey will center around the intersection of spirituality and resilience. Mindfulness and meditation contribute significantly to her daily life, and she plans to explore cultures that find their roots in these practices. Along with the natural environment, these cultures inspire resilience through acceptance of the present and grace in understanding the past and its implications for the future. Drew plans to immerse herself in the respectful consideration of cultures that continue to influence and shape the lens through which she views the world and her place in it. She will begin her journey in South America visiting Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. She then will spend time traveling through Southeast Asia where she will stay in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos among other locations. Finally, Drew’s Bonderman journey will conclude in India and Nepal.

Photo of Juell TownsJuell Towns
Global Health
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Juell is drawn to the ways people of the African Diaspora use art (especially cuisine and dance) to sustain and protect rich traditions and histories, particularly of Africa, South America, and in the Caribbean. Juell hopes to connect with a world that isn’t primarily mediated by Euro-centric paradigms, but rather one that is rooted in Afrocentric ways of knowing and being. Juell plans to travel to Uganda, Senegal, Morocco, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, and Grenada and anticipates that this experience will reshape her comprehension of the world and transform the way she is able to articulate her relationship with the land. 

An eighth graduate Fellow declines to be identified at this time.