skip to main content
Environmental Studies
University of Mississippi

Barksdale Award Winner Eager to Experience Life in ‘the Margins’

Joe Bell to spend time with cowboys on two continents

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez presents Joe Bell with his Barksdale Award.

Joe Bell receives Barksdale Award from Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez.

A University of Mississippi student has been chosen to pursue adventures in experimental learning in Uruguay and across North America.

Joe Bell, a sophomore from Gloucester, Massachusetts working toward a BA in international studies, public policy leadership, and Spanish with a minor in environmental studies, is one of two 2015 winners of a Barksdale Award. Bell and Kate Lindsay, students in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, were announced as the 17th and 18th winners of the prestigious awards Tuesday evening (Feb. 10) during the Honors College spring convocation at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The $5,000 award supports creative, courageous projects developed by students who are willing to take risks with their time and efforts for ambitious, independent programs of study, research or humanitarian work. The Barksdale Awards were established in 2005 to encourage students to test themselves in environments that don’t have the built-in safeties of a classroom, teaching lab or library.

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, describes the award as an opportunity to take on a task and put yourself where the problem is acute. All students who apply for the Barksdale Award have helped us “dream a little bigger and brighter,” he said.

“From horseback and from the campfire, Joe will be recording cultures already on the margins and, perhaps, soon to disappear, Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Kate, too, will be reporting from the margins, this time between the deaf world and the hearing world. The stage she has chosen is the stage itself.

“Both Joe and Kate are genuine, self-directed citizen-scholars. They’re folding their academic training into experience and evolving public space, in an effort to bring us all closer to what is happening and what could happen.”

Bell, fluent in Spanish and an accomplished equestrian, will travel to Colorado, California and Uruguay to live and work among cowboys and gauchos and experience the world from their point of view. From his experience, he hopes to explore how labor policy, agricultural policy and the globalization of food systems affect both groups.

Bell says that the award will allow him to pursue his passion for people and the natural environment.

“I am intrigued and inspired by the independent and somewhat tragic lives of the North American cowboy and the Uruguayan gaucho,” said Bell. “These two entities, although separated by an almost hemispheric landmass, have long suffered from the same cultural, economic and legal marginalization.”

John Winkle, professor emeritus of political science, calls Bell’s project a personal challenge to pursue unbridled adventure and embrace the independent spirit.

“Joe Bell is the only Honors College student whom I have taught or known in 17 years who could complete this proposed research project,” Winkle said. “He is a first-rate equestrian, he speaks Spanish well and he understands the expectations of the research enterprise. He will succeed.”

For more about Bell’s research project read his essay, A View from the Saddle: An Exploration of the Uruguayan Gaucho and the American Cowboy.