Today, USA Today readers across the nation were introduced to the newspaper’s Academic All-Stars. Representing Swarthmore: Mark Dlugash ’08 made the team.
He is one of only twenty college students in the nation to win the prestigious award, which honors “full-time undergraduates who not only excel in scholarship but also extend their intellectual abilities beyond the classroom to benefit society,” explains the USA Today website.
Dlugash fits the bill.
During the summer of 2006, he joined Katie Camillus ’08 on an adventure in Uganda, where he started an ambitious project to photograph and interview parents of children with malaria. At the time, Uganda was torn by conflict. “We kept going north,” explained Dlugash, “and the people we spoke to said ‘Oh no, the war is not here. It is farther north.’ But we got almost to the border with Sudan and we hadn’t seen fighting.”
The trip which served as subject matter for his USA Today essay also helped him decide what to do with the $2,500 award that accompanies the prize. He’s decided to donate all of the money to purchase bed nets for children in Uganda. The $2,500 will purchase between 250 and 500 bed nets, complementing the 900 nets Swarthmore’s Global Health Forum [GHF] has already sent. Dlugash is the founder of the GHF.
When he graduates, Dlugash wants to follow in the footsteps of Katie Chamblee ’07 (founder of the Village Education Project) and make the Global Health Forum into a more permanent establishment at Swarthmore, officially incorporating it as a non-profit organization. “I won’t do it full time,” he said in an interview. “But I want to be very involved.”
He aspires to write a book on academic research and “tthe big gap between research and dissemination.” First, though, he wants to get back to Africa. “I’m planning to go back to East Africa,” he told the Gazette, “and work on HIV/AIDS with street children.”
Dlugash was stunned to win the award. “When I got the call from USA Today, the lady on the phone didn’t sound very excited. I was sure she was calling to tell me I hadn’t made the cut,” he said. While the USA Today official did tell him about his big win, she also said that the newspaper would not be repeating the contest. “I think they might have run out of money,” said Dlugash, thinking of the recent downsizing which has swept the newspaper industry.
Still, he isn’t complaining. $2,500 means hundreds more bed nets for the people who really need them.