by Elise Goitia '18
Sophomore Keara Crook is combining her interests in biology and Asian studies this summer with an internship in Thailand, where she will learn about the care and conservation of Asian elephants.
Her summer abroad is supported by a $5,000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Knox students have consistently received a high number of these competitive scholarships, which give students with financial need the means to study or intern abroad.
"I'm so excited," said Crook. "If the opportunity to apply for the Gilman Scholarship wasn't available, all hope for studying in Thailand would've been thrown out the window."
Crook will intern at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute, where she'll take the course "Elephants, Culture and Ecology in Thailand: History, Care and Conservation of the Asian Elephant." She'll interact with elephants while learning from Thai veterinarians, Thai university professors, and others involved in elephant care and conservation.
Crook first gained interest in the program when she took Conservation Biology with Watson Bartlett Professor of Biology and Conservation Stuart Allison. She completed a research paper on the conservation of Asian elephants, which made her decide to seek out the program, and later, the Gilman scholarship.
"Going to Thailand is vital to both of my majors because I'll gain so much field knowledge," said Crook. "And let's face it, elephants are beautiful creatures, so who wouldn't want to learn about their history, conservation, and care."
Crook hopes to learn veterinary care elements, the elephants' role in Thai culture, and ways that they are actively being conserved.
"In most of my biology courses, I've had the ability to pick a topic to pursue research," she said. "Because of that, I've been able to focus on elephants, and that makes me feel confident in this opportunity."
Knox inspired Crook to pursue independence with the resources the College provides. With the guidance of Bren Tooley, director of the Stellyes Center for Global Studies, and Laura Bush, coordinator of the Success Program, she is determined to make the most of the grant and the program.
"Because of my growing independence, I have the confidence to study in Thailand on my own," said Crook. "My hope is that this experience will benefit my future personally, academically, and professionally. I'll experience something I'll never forget, my skills will grow in field research, and I believe understanding Thai language and culture will open more doors to future opportunities."