Media advisory: Trio of travel fellowships take Rice students to the ends of the earth

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations


Katharine Shilcutt

Trio of travel fellowships take Rice students to the ends of the earth
A solo trek across the Arctic Circle is just one of this year’s journeys

HOUSTON – (April 17, 2019) – The Arctic Circle. The border between El Paso and Juarez. Tokyo.

These are the far-flung destinations three Rice students will be heading to this year as the university’s newest recipients of a trio of travel fellowships.

Lia Pikus, a sophomore who’s double-majoring in music and political science, won the Arthur and Shelley Gottschalk Traveling Grant for Musicians.

Shami Mosley, a junior seeking a degree in English, won the Brotzen Scholarship, which funds an independent trip abroad to explore a topic of the student’s choice.

Kaela Wilbur, a junior studying environmental science, won the Goliard Scholarship, which funds an independent trip abroad to further their personal growth and offer exposure to new experiences.

A solo trek across the Arctic Circle

Jones College junior Kaela Wilbur

Jones College junior Kaela Wilbur

Wilbur is taking her fellowship and running with it to the ends of the earth — literally.

“I’m planning to hike the Arctic Circle Trail this August because all the snow will have melted by then and hopefully the mosquitos will have died down a bit,” said Wilbur, a seasoned hiker who tackled her first solo trip last summer along the Appalachian Trail — a feat that earned the then-19-year-old wide acclaim.

The 125-mile Arctic Circle Trail runs from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut in Greenland, consisting mostly of tundra, mountains and lakes. Wilbur is planning to use the trip — a solo hike — to sharpen a variety of skills, including landscape photography.

“Greenland is known for having epic scenery because there are few trees to obscure the views, and there are cool animals like arctic foxes, musk oxen and reindeer,” Wilbur said. “I’m hoping to be able to get some great shots for my portfolio while I’m out there in addition to being challenged physically and mentally by the hiking.”

An animated journey in Japan

Jones College junior Shami Mosley

Jones College junior Shami Mosley

Mosley has been a vocal fan of anime and manga since childhood.

“I remember being a child and screaming the special attack move ‘Kamehameha!’ of the character Goku from the anime ‘Dragon Ball Z,’” he said.

Allowance money bought “hundreds” of cards for the game based off the anime “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and years were devoted to studying every element of the genres. But the more Mosley learned, the more he realized he didn’t know — and the more he wanted to understand.

“I now realize there has been a cultural barrier up this entire time, and I may have been missing something that these series were trying to say,” said Mosley, who credits manga and anime with his development as an individual.

The Brotzen Scholarship will enable Mosley to visit the home of anime when he heads to Japan this August. It will also be Mosley’s first trip abroad — a first within his family, too.

“I just appreciate having these opportunities to do things that my parents have never done before,” said Mosley, who admitted he’s both “excited and terrified to experience the culture of a different country.”

Ethnomusicology in El Paso

Lia Pikus

Lia Pikus

The U.S.-Mexico border is fraught with political tension, which has obscured the personal stories of those directly affected by the humanitarian crisis. This is one reason Pikus wants to explore the border from the perspective of ethnomusicology, hoping to bring home music and stories from both sides.

“Simply telling people’s individualized stories, both through words and art, is something that is underrepresented in mainstream media, and something I hope — by its inherent structure and nature — my proposal accomplishes,” she said.

Pikus’ proposal for the Gottschalk Traveling Grant for Musicians was structured, she said, to “increase visibility of soft media around immigration without the forceful hand of outside opinion or politicization.”

It’s an approach — a trip with the express purpose of documenting and disseminating music — that differs from the traditional tack taken by ethnomusicologists, who study the way people and cultures express themselves through music and who typically have a thesis and pointed research questions in place before performing work like this.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to conduct field work on a topic I’m passionate about that maybe doesn’t fit into a conventional academic or research norm,” Pikus said.


This news release can be found online at

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Related information:

Rice Center for Civic Leadership fellowships:

Kaela Wilbur photo:

Shami Mosley photo:

Lia Pikus photo:

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,970 undergraduates and 2,934 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.