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Release: May 2, 2000

UI senior Lana Zak earns Fulbright scholarship

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Lana Zak, University of Iowa senior and former UI student government president, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Program scholarship to spend at least one year in Korea, where she'll study the racial identity of Asian-Americans who have grown up in a mono-ethnic society.

Zak believes this is the first study of its kind to be done, and says she'll be working mostly on her own after July 5 when she leaves for Korea to conduct the study, tentatively titled "Through the Looking Glass: Asian-American Ethnic Identity in a Mono-ethnic Society."

"I believe that people with a multi-racial ethnic identity are the key to the next level of progress for race relations in the U.S. To this end, I will be spending the next year trying to understand the racial identity of someone who is a 'halfzee' like myself, who has grown up in a nation unlike the U.S."

Zak is from Bettendorf and will graduate this month with a bachelor's degree in political science and a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications.

"From gaining a better understanding of racial identity, I hope to later apply this information to uniting races in a shared movement for equality," says Zak, who is of Korean and American descent.

The Fulbright Program is designed to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Annually, approximately 4,500 new grants are awarded through national competitions of students, teachers, scholars and professionals.

Zak chose the topic, she says, because it's important as well as interesting.

"My parents, who are always tremendously supportive, and my predecessors have shown me the path and have given me the confidence to achieve my goals. My younger sister's and my hope for future generations give me the determination to make a difference."

Her initial plans are to spend one year in Korea, and she might exercise the option to apply for additional funding, available by the up to three-year renewable scholarship. When Zak returns to the U.S. and her study is complete, she expects to study public policy, and although she's mulled attending such schools as Georgetown University, she has not decided on any one just yet, she says.

Zak credits Professor Jae-On-Kim, Center for Asian and Pacific Studies; Associate Professor Douglas Midgett, anthropology; and her mother, Jane Michong Zak, as being among the many who helped her arrange her competition portfolio.