St. Mary's College of Maryland graduate Chantal Russell, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was named a Portz Scholar by the National Collegiate Honors Council for her outstanding senior project paper on the economic realities of sex trafficking in women. She is pictured here with her project mentor, economics professor Asif Dowla. (Submitted Photo)
ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (Aug. 22, 2008)—An unflinching, unorthodox examination of the economic realities of sex trafficking in women has won Chantal Russell, a recent graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM), the prestigious National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Portz Scholar Award. One of three students selected from a field of 36 candidates with excellent undergraduate papers, Russell and two other Portz scholars will be honored at the NCHC National Conference in October, to be held in San Antonio. Each will receive $250 and present a summary of their project to a large audience of fellow high-achieving, focused students.
Russell, from Gaithersburg, Maryland, graduated Summa Cum Laude in May with a degree in political science. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received a Nitze Scholars Program Commendation. Her senior St. Mary's Project (SMP) mentor at SMCM was Asif Dowla, professor of economics. Russell wrote the paper as her SMP in political science. The SMP is a year-long project that seniors may elect to design and carry out as an independent academic project under the guidance of a faculty member.
Upon learning of Russell's selection for the award, Dowla said: "Chantal is one of the best student writers I have encountered in my 20 years of teaching, and this prestigious award is an apt recognition of that skill. I am extremely proud of her."
Michael Taber, professor of philosophy and director of the Nitze Scholars Program, nominated Russell for the NCHC competition. The college's Nitze Scholars Program is a member of the NCHC, and Taber serves on the council's Small College Committee.
"When I read Chantal's project, I knew it would be a contender for the Portz Award. As an English and political science double-major, and a member of the Nitze Scholars Program during her years here, Chantal developed the writing ability she brought to SMCM into a skill now nationally recognized," Taber said.
In "Innocence for Sale? Toward an Alternative Discourse of Sex Trafficking in Women," Russell makes the argument that there is need for an international discourse on "sex trafficking free of politics, paternalism and repressive moralism." Russell writes that the "politicization" of trafficking "has rendered the women for whom all are ostensibly concerned voiceless abstractions in an arena of debate from which they are largely excluded. One of the greatest shortcomings of contemporary trafficking discourse and the policy it informs is their common neglect of the structural causes of sex trafficking: the economic need, gender inequities, and multiple state failures that drive it." Among the alternatives Russell proposes are region-specific policies, the easing of immigration laws characteristic of destination states for trafficking, and an expanded financial commitment to initiatives aimed at the marginalized women of the developing world.
The NCHC is composed of 896 institutional, professional and other members from all 50 states and abroad. It is the professional association of undergraduate honors programs and colleges; honors directors and deans; and honors faculty, staff, and students. The association provides support for institutions and individuals developing, implementing, and expanding honors education through curriculum development, program assessment, teaching innovation, national and international study opportunities, internships, service and leadership development, and mentored research. The NCHC mission is to serve honors professionals and advocate support for and excellence in higher education for all students.
The NCHC Portz Scholars Program began in 1990 to acknowledge John and Edyth Portz for their financial contributions to grants for innovation in honors education. Each year, the Portz Committee selects the top three research or creative papers by undergraduate honors students who have been nominated by their college or university for outstanding work. The two other 2008 Portz Scholars are Erin Edgington of the University of Nevada-Reno and David Hill of Kent State University.