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Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2011

IU School of Education graduate student awarded prestigious Wells Fellowship

March 7, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Graduate School has awarded Julie Frye, PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at the IU School of Education, with the 2011-12 Wells Graduate Fellowship.

The fellowship is an award provided for by the estate of longtime IU president and University Chancellor Herman B Wells. The $33,000 award goes to a doctoral or M.F.A student who demonstrates the qualities of Chancellor Wells: leadership abilities, academic excellence, character, social consciousness, and generosity of spirit.

Frye has exhibited those qualities through her work as a school librarian, a university instructor, and a graduate student. In 2003, shortly after the latest in a series of religious wars that killed more than 1,200 in Kaduna, Nigeria, Frye traveled alone to the city to help rebuild the destroyed library. In her first semester as a public school librarian, she opposed and stopped the removal of a book from the shelves that one teacher and a principal deemed "offensive." During her master's work (MS'02 from the IU School of Library and Information Science in Indianapolis), she created a curriculum designed to engage disinterested readers that incorporated snorkeling and rock-climbing and resulted in the assigned books flying off the shelves.

"Julie Frye is a one-woman stimulus package when it comes to her leadership style," wrote Mary Nine, social studies teacher and department leader at Edgewood Intermediate School in Indianapolis, in her recommendation letter. "She lifted up her teaching colleagues and challenged them to learn new skills, try new initiatives and transform student learning."

The chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction wrote in his recommendation that Frye's journey to a war-torn part of Nigeria embodied Wells' call for students to devote themselves to institutions worthy of their best. "Julie, in her usual tenacious and passionate way, chose to be the first international volunteer to help reestablish a library in Kaduna," wrote Jesse Goodman. "Only someone with Julie's strong character and devotion to social justice would have the courage and resolve to be involved in such a project."

Frye has served as a visiting lecturer at IUPUI for the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Liberal Arts, and University College since 2000, and has impressed faculty and students alike. "Julie has been a true beacon of brilliant light in our first-year seminar program," wrote David Sabol, academic coordinator for Learning Communities for University College. Sabol added that Frye's work produced some of the most amazing results he had ever seen from entering students. "Julie's positive energy and competence is readily sensed by students," he said.

The award will go toward helping Frye complete her dissertation. She intends to focus on the professional socialization of new school librarians. "I'm generally interested in what's happening in schools," Frye said. "As an instructor in the School of Library and Information Science, I'm always thinking about how we can prepare our students for the school environment. So that genuine curiosity and the desire to help those first few years to not be so rocky in the transition process -- that's what has led me to the topic."

Frye becomes the third recipient of the Wells Fellowship with ties to the School of Education in the last three years. Oren Pizmony-Levy, a PhD double major in education policy studies and sociology was awarded the Wells Fellowship for 2010-11; Payal Shaw, comparative education PhD candidate, earned the award in 2009-10. Frye earned her undergraduate degree in secondary English from the IU School of Education in 2000.

"It is because of students like these that the School of Education enjoys such a wonderful national and international reputation," said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the School. "No wonder we are ranked among the best graduate schools of education in the world."

Frye said the award has made her think back on a chance conversation she had with Chancellor Wells' retired secretary who raved about Wells' attributes. "And I thought, I need to know more about this man," Frye said. "I really connected to his story because of his advocacy for libraries and for intellectual freedom. I feel like it's just such a great honor to be named the recipient of this fellowship."