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.

We are excited to welcome in the 2023 Bonderman cohort. This year’s selection process was limited to graduate and professional students (please see more on this decision here). The eight 2023 Bonderman Fellows will travel to over thirty countries, spanning four continents collectively. Each fellow will independently explore one to two world regions, with a maximum of eight countries, for at least five months. 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 2023 Fellows

Regions and countries to be explored:

Algeria, Barbados, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, East Timor, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Lesotho, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Paraguay, the Philippines, Rwanda, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Vietnam, 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 2023 cohort:

  • Afro-futurism and presentism
  • Black diasporic history and culture
  • Counterculture formation as a tool for human connection
  • Linguistics and dialects
  • Musical events and concert culture
  • The relationship between a place’s natural resources and its cuisine, clothing, and culture
  • The role of the bicycle in community-building

Graduate and Professional Fellows

Erica Victoria Adams
Master of Science in Information Management
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Erica is passionate about understanding how people can connect and create community through the universal language of music. The countries in her itinerary are a mix of global music powerhouses, emerging music markets, and places with strong traditional music presence. As an avid concert and festival goer here in the US, she is curious about what concert culture looks like elsewhere, how people interact with each other, and how people organize musical events. From this experience of traveling around Africa and Asia, Erica seeks deeper understanding of human nature, community, as well as her own capabilities.


Shelby Iwatani Cramer
Master of Public Administration
Hometown: Seattle, WA
As a woman of color whose world opened because of a bicycle, Shelby is interested in exploring how women, girls, and gender diverse people in Southeast Asia and central Africa empower themselves by accessing opportunities, community, and education through the use of the bicycle. Shelby seeks to question the role of the bicycle in community-building as they travel around the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.



Photo of Jay Cunningham

Jay L. Cunningham
PhD Candidate, Human Centered Design and Engineering
Hometown: Artesia, MS
Jay’s upbringing, identity, and family socioeconomic status are motivating factors of why he is pursuing the Bonderman Travel Fellowship. He wants to embark on a journey that his contemporary family members have no recollection of and one that his ancestors never had the choice to take. Jay deeply desires to retrace the transatlantic slave trade through the Global South and connect with the rich history, culture, and traditions of Benin and Ghana in West Africa, Brazil in Latin America, and Jamaica, Barbados, and surrounding Caribbean islands. Through Bonderman, his goal is to connect histories, stories, cultures, languages, and a sense of belonging among Black people in these regions. Through this fellowship, he hopes to achieve the following: 1) reconnect with his ancestral roots, 2) explore cultural landmarks, 3) experience vibrant cities, communities, and landscapes, and 4) gain a deeper understanding of Black diasporic history and culture extending from West Africa to the Americas.

Chinazom Nwakaego Oleru
Master of Arts in Cultural Studies
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Chinazom plans to explore her love and interest for culture and communication in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, India, South Korea, and Japan primarily through aesthetics and fashion. She has always been deeply interested in how individuals and communities express themselves through their clothing, and plans to engage with local artisans and textile makers throughout her travel to learn the histories behind traditional textiles and heritage materials such as kente and kitenge, especially how they have shifted and changed along borders and ancient trade routes. Chinazom hopes through her fellowship travel she is able to intentionally pause, rest, and reflect on how she moves throughout the world, and intends to take full advantage of the opportunity to quite literally chart her own path. Themes she hopes to engage while on her travels include: Afro-futurism and presentism, Eastern visual and aesthetic cultures, indigenous African architectural design, and third-world film cultures.

Photo of Katt PuringtonKatt Purington
Master of Social Work
Hometown: Newport News, VA and Seattle, WA
Katt is excited to become a boundless Bonderman Fellow. They will be exploring Japan, The Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Laos, and Cambodia as part of their fellowship. All in the frantic search for people like them who want to celebrate their strength, pride and tenacity as a queer person. People like them, who have formed their own countercultures through their necessity of human connection in a sometimes unkind world. Some groups will host their punk and/or drag shows, some will be hosting their annual Pride events.  All will provide transformative moments of self-assurance and pride.



Photo of Samuel RollerSamuel Roller
Master of Arts in Middle East Studies
When traveling to Paraguay, Bolivia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Nepal, and the Philippines, Samuel hopes to gain new perspectives on social life and relationships with nature across diverse cultural and physical landscapes. Additionally, he hopes to explore new languages and learn to understand and appreciate the linguistic mosaic of dialects in Arabic and Spanish, which he has previously studied. Along the way, Samuel plans to push himself by taking on unique and rewarding challenges that teach him to live with purpose and deepen his experiences with different places, environments, and people. By the time of his return, Samuel hopes to have found new friends and memories around the world and to have removed many of the layers of mediation which often obstruct our relationship with the wider world.

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Samuel Roller passed away on August 21, 2023 before departing on his Bonderman Fellowship. fundraiser has been created to support Samuel’s family at this difficult time.

Courtney Skalley
Master of Marine Affairs
Hometown: Everett, WA

Courtney wants to step away from American consumerism and travel to regions in southeastern Africa and Asia that are intimately in tune with the land and sea. She is excited to see how people across the world interact with their natural resources and observe how that relationship translates into their cuisine, clothing, and culture. Courtney hopes to have earnest conversations with locals to gain a more nuanced understanding of global issues such as climate change and learn about how those issues impact communities both large and small.


Gus Smith
PhD Candidate, Computer Science and Engineering
Hometown: Mountain Top, PA

Gus’s itinerary is inspired by the people and cultures that have surrounded him throughout his life. Despite never having traveled outside the US or Canada, Gus has had the great fortune to work with, live with, and befriend people from all over the world, due largely to his participation in the international community of computer science researchers. Gus plans to use his Bonderman Fellowship to visit the home countries of his colleagues and friends, in hopes that a greater cultural awareness can make him a better member of his global computer science community.