By Paul Steven GhiringhelliApril 23, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - A Fort Drum civilian employee joined an elite group of American scholars and artists selected April 15 to spend time at a prominent think tank in Europe - the first time a Department of Defense employee has ever been tapped for the fellowship in its 114-year history.
Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum's cultural resource manager and archaeologist, was one of 33 Americans awarded the 2010-2011 Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome - a private group that fosters the creative and scholarly pursuits of American intellectuals who work and teach in the arts and humanities.
Winners of the national competition will head overseas on a fully funded scholarship to live, work and study in Rome, along with a select group of senior academy residents, starting Sept. 6.
"I was beyond ecstatic when I heard I was selected," said Rush, who recently returned from an environmental conference in Afghanistan. "I was just beyond thrilled."
During her yearlong stay in a villa overlooking the ancient city, Rush will participate in the academy's Historic Preservation and Conservation program to increase cultural sensitivity in developing nations through education and support from partner organizations, including the NATO Defense College.
The subject of Rush's studies won't differ drastically from her chief role at the Army, where she fosters respect among deployed Soldiers for archaeological sites, historic buildings and sacred places.
"My project at the academy will be to develop curriculum to teach military personnel about the importance of cultural properties," said Rush, who has traveled throughout the Middle East during the last few years as a cultural resource liaison for the U.S. Army.
"I also will learn a lot at Italian archaeological sites," she said, "and that training will help me in creating (archaeological) site management handbooks for developing nations."
Her peers won six-month to two-year fellowships in the annually bestowed Rome Prize. They will perform advanced research in academy categories such as Architecture, Literature, Medieval Studies and Musical Composition.
Rush's selection to the prestigious academy did not come as a total surprise to the Fort Drum community, where her list of accomplishments and awards is long, distinguished and growing.
"Dr. Rush has achieved excellence in both her profession and support to the Army's strategic mission," said James Corriveau, director of Fort Drum Public Works. "Her accomplishments in educating Soldiers and leaders about historic and culturally sensitive sites in both Iraq and Afghanistan are critically important elements in (the Army's) counterinsurgency campaigns.
"Her continued work next year with the American Academy in Rome will greatly expand upon these achievements throughout the NATO military partners," Corriveau said.
Supported by private and public donors, the American Academy in Rome publishes scholarly works; sponsors exhibitions, concerts and lectures; and maintains a library of more than 140,000 volumes in the fields of classical studies and the history of art and architecture, a photographic archive and an archaeological study collection.
Rush said being the first DoD employee to ever receive a fellowship with the esteemed academy is a bit "overwhelming" and a "huge responsibility."
"What an extraordinary honor," she said. "To be selected, no matter who you are - it's an absolute highlight in anyone's career."