Like mother, like son – Fulbright grants awarded to both

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YARMOUTH — Like his mother did last year, Miles Kenney-Lazar will leave the country for nearly a year on a Fulbright-sponsored trip.

Kenney-Lazar, a recent graduate of the University of Miami, will study the socioeconomic effects of rubber growing on rural households in northern Laos. His mother, Ana Lazar, is an associate professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Social Work. She traveled to El Salvador on a Fulbright grant last year where she spent four months teaching social work courses and consulting on the design and implementation of social and educational projects within the community and on curriculum development.

The Fulbright Program awards grants for international education activities including university lecturing, elementary and secondary teaching and advanced research.

“I think it is unusual to have two members of a family receive a Fulbright,” Lazar said.”This is unique.”

She said she and her husband traveled a lot and took their two sons, Max and Miles with them on numerous trips.

“We went to Mexico, to Central and South America and Ecuador and most recently India,” Lazar said. “We went on medical missions to the Dominican Republic and took Safe Passage trips. Miles’ father is very much a traveler and we traveled a lot when the kids were young.”

Their other son, Max, spent the winter teaching English in Nicaragua, she said, and will return again next year.

“My mom is a big Spanish speaker, my family travels a lot and I became interested at an early age,” Kenney-Lazar said.

At 21 years old, he has already been to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Ecuador and Mexico. There has always been an aspect of community service or education to their travels.

Last year Kenney-Lazar, a geography and international studies major, spent a few months in the northwestern provinces of Laos to conduct field research. He visited 72 villages, interviewed farmers, and studied the effects of rubber production on the farming villages. His research provided the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with information to help villagers.

During his Fulbright sponsored 10-month trip to Laos this summer, he will spend one month in three separate villages to study the people and how the villages are run. He will look closely at contracts between independent farmers and foreign investors and study how the different arrangements will effect the farmers. By studying the varying contracts, he can find a model contract that the government can promote to prevent the more exploitative contracts from occurring.

“I am not looking at solutions,” he said. “My role is to provide information since there has not been a lot of research done on this subject. There is a lot to learn and a lot to understand.”

He sent his findings from last year to the non-governmental organizations and the government to offer his data, but his findings offer research only, he said.

Kenney-Lazar said he expects to travel for a few months in China and Korea before starting his research project.

“I plan on going to graduate school, but may not stick with this specific issue in the future,” he said. “Having an understanding of a country makes it easy to branch into another research project. I love to travel and expect to do more in the future.”

Lazar said she finds the work her son is conducting in Laos fascinating, and hopes students in state colleges and smaller schools can take advantage of the program as she and her son did. There are a lot of applicants from Bowdoin, Bates, Yale and Dartmouth, she said. Students from other schools should apply too.

“Part of my interest is getting the word out about this opportunity,” she said. “This is a program that takes a lot of preparation and planning for a motivated student, but is available to all Maine students.”

For more information, contact Larisa Kruze, the associate director if International Programs at USM, or call 780-4959.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or