English major Prithak Chowdhury '15 has been awarded the inaugural Anthony Ellis ’89 Post-Graduation Fellowship. The grant was created by Ellis’ family after his death in January of 2014. An English major at Stonehill, Ellis went on to earn his doctorate at Loyola University in Chicago and was an associate professor of Renaissance literature at Western Michigan University at the time of his death.
The fellowship will allow Chowdhury to pursue his dream of writing a novel, which will be an inter-generational narrative about his own diverse heritage.
“Coming from a bi-ethnic family with my mother hailing from a socio-conservative tribal household in India, and my father coming from a Bengali family, I have been raised in the cusp of two different cultures. I saw poverty, wealth, education, lack of literacy, and cultural xenophobia within my own families,” says Chowdhury.
A trip back home to India this past winter sparked Chowdhury’s interest into learning more about his own family’s background and India’s stark disparities.
It was during the trip that he learned of his paternal grandmother’s story. The first woman to work in a government office in the northeast Indian state of Tripura, she was also one of the first women to go to college in the 1940s.
“My grandmother's story is an enigma to me for many reasons. But with my newfound understanding and education that has helped me dissect my identities through a lens of post-colonial structuralism, that story becomes that much more important in my understanding of my nation and my heritage,” notes Chowdhury, who, with the support of the Ellis Fellowship, plans to backpack across India this summer starting from Rajasthan in the west, down to Chennai in the south and ending in his home state of Tripura.
“I want to see the India where poverty is still a reality, and also the India with skyscrapers and cafes. “By taking this journey, I aim to get an in-depth understanding of who I am and where I come from.”
Throughout his month-long journey, Chowdhury plans to keep a journal with his observations and reflections. He will use these as the basis for a novel which will speak both about his own experiences and his grandmother's.
“I want to create an inter-generational narrative that switches back and forth between my experiences in the developing India of the 21st century, with its myriad intricacies and contradictions of caste, ethnicity, religion, wealth and poverty, with my Grandmother's experiences of being an independent woman in a newly independent India,” says Chowdhury.
Since beginning his studies at the College, Chowdhury has been an active member of the campus community. During his time at Stonehill, he has served as the Student Government Association’s Executive Diversity Chair, a peer mentor, HOPE leader, ITS Coordinator, IDEAS program co-facilitator, academic peer mentor, a member of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee, the College Disciplinary Committee, and a Campus Ministry retreat leader.
He has also received numerous awards including 2015 President's Cup, which is presented to a senior whose Stonehill career bears witness to a life-long commitment to intellectual excellence and dedication to service.
Chowdhury also received the 2014 Vice President's Award, the 2014 Best Student Life Program Award, the 2014 Community Service Award, the 2012 First Year Class Leadership Award and many more.
About Anthony Ellis ’89
In his vigorously productive academic career, Ellis taught courses in Shakespeare and the history of drama, lectured in Asia and Europe, and received a Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship. He served as an associate editor of the journal Comparative Drama and published the monograph Old Age, Masculinity, and Early Modern Drama. His articles on Renaissance drama appeared in Forum Italicum, Studi veneziani, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and The Ben Jonson Journal.
Ellis was adventurous in his pursuits, diverse in his interests, and willing to experiment with different pathways before homing in on his academic career. It is in honor of the life of him and his spirit of meaningful adventure and mindful exploration that his parents, Bob and Christine Ellis, established the Fellowship.
The Anthony Ellis Post-Graduation Fellowship provides a financial stipend and institutional support to assist a graduating English major in launching his/her post-graduation experience. There are no restrictions on the type of project a student proposes, from scholarly work to service-oriented projects.
For more information about the Anthony Ellis Post-Graduation Fellowship, visit here.