Katherine Rice Miller Awarded Smith Scholarship at Davidson
April 9, 2001
by Alexandra Obregon '00
While Davidson College senior Katherine Rice Miller was studying at the University of Oxford in England during her junior year abroad, she enjoyed herself so much that she considered staying to complete her degree. Miller eventually decided to return to Davidson for her senior year. Now she's very glad she did!
Miller recently won Davidson's W. Thomas Smith Scholarship, which will finance her return to Oxford following her Davidson graduation for two semesters of study there.
Miller will use the Smith Scholarship, sometimes referred to as "The Davidson Rhodes," to earn a M.Phil. degree (British equivalent to a master's degree) from Oxford in economic and social history. For her master's thesis, she plans on studying Chinese and Indian acculturation in the United Kingdom in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century--a subject very few have explored.
"Numerous studies in ethnic relations have examined Asian immigration from a social sciences perspective, but preliminary research has revealed a lack of historical analysis," Miller explained.
Sally McMillen, professor of history, believes Miller is perfectly suited for this kind of work. "Katherine is a born historian. Her sophisticated approach to history and historical analysis is exceptional," McMillen said.
Miller's interest in the integration of foreigners into a culture stems from both her personal and academic experience. At Davidson, she was intrigued by the subject through a course in Indian history. During her year at Oxford, she learned about imperialism and nationalism from the perspective of the colonizing country, and became more interested in how Asian immigrants were assimilated into British culture.
"Acculturation has a significant impact on many spheres of modern society, shaping educational issues, government policy, and business decisions," she said. "Although cultural orientation programs are a relatively recent development, acculturation has a long, fascinating history."
Miller herself is no stranger to acculturation. Born in Belgium of American parents, she made her first international relocation at the age of nine months. She spent her childhood in the United States, and her school years in the United Kingdom, before enrolling at Davidson as first year student in 1997. Last summer, she taught English and drama at a summer language camp in China.
"Only then did I realize the tremendous challenge of learning to work effectively in a completely foreign culture," she said of the experience. "My students' questions constantly reminded me that I was the foreigner. I left at the end of six weeks a humbler and wiser individual."
In August, Miller completed her twenty-seventh trip across the Atlantic, returning to her family's current "home" in Pittsburgh. Although her cultural transitions have not been nearly as drastic as immigration to the United States or the United Kingdom from India and China, she believes that her own experiences will give her a unique perspective in her historical research at Oxford.
Before she travels across the Atlantic yet again to enroll at Oxford, Miller will get a chance to experience Indian culture first hand. She is one of five Davidson students traveling there for a month this summer with Professor Job Thomas, director of Davidson's South Asian Studies Program. Funded by a Faculty Fellows grant from the ASIANetwork, each student will conduct a research project in an area of personal interest.
Miller will study the liberation theology of the Dalit community, formerly the lowest rung of the Indian caste system, which makes up two-thirds of the Christian population in India. Although this research is not directly related to the studies she will pursue at Oxford, she looks forward becoming more intimately acquainted with the culture she will be studying from a British perspective for the next two years.
At Davidson, Miller is a Samuel Henry Bell Scholar and a Kelley History Scholar. She is a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Davidson College Concert Choir. After she completes her master's degree, Miller plans to teach at the high school level, and then study for a Ph.D. degree.
Established by Tom Smith, a 1948 alumnus from Greenville, S.C., the W. Thomas Smith Scholarship is awarded annually to one exceptional senior at Davidson who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and a commitment to service to the community.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.