Zachary Petroni, Michigan ’13, was awarded the first-ever Raoul Wallenberg Fellowship, a $25,000 award conferred by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman this past spring.
The fellowship is named in honor of 1935 Michigan graduate Raoul Wallenberg. While attending Michigan, Wallenberg was recognized for his academic performance and his passion for studying other cultures and peoples.
He left Ann Arbor determined to take an active role in the world. Ten years later, as a Swedish diplomat during World War II, Wallenberg coordinated the rescue of tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest. He disappeared after being arrested by Soviet authorities during the Siege of Budapest in 1945.
Petroni was selected for his plan to study wildlife conservation governance in Kenya. His research is designed to explore the ways in which different approaches to conservation affect indigenous populations.
Petroni’s interest in conservation administration and its impact was stirred during an opportunity to study in East Africa in 2012.
Petroni learned that policies and statutory initiatives designed to ensure that wildlife thrive often have unintended, even shocking, consequences. Petroni heard about an indigenous Maasai villager who was beaten by wildlife rangers when, as a boy, he accidentally herded his family’s cattle into a newly designated wildlife area. Moved by these firsthand accounts, Petroni was compelled to act.
In speaking with The University Record, Petroni said, “The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Wallenberg is that one person can change the world for the better, regardless of his or her background, if only they are willing to put others first.”
Petroni’s research presents an opportunity to balance the importance of conservation efforts with those of the affected local communities, including how local villagers can engage in preservation initiatives.
We are fortunate to have Petroni research new ways to safeguard wildlife and the lives of people in the region.
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