Aspiring changer of the world wins fellowship NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

April 08, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Miriam J. Aukerman was 10 years old when she realized she wanted to change the world.

"I wanted to be a missionary when I was younger," Ms. Aukerman said. "Then I realized I wanted to work within political structures as they changed for the future."

It was quite an aspiration for that child living in a 250-year-old renovated log cabin between New Windsor and Union Bridge.

Now, 14 years later, Ms. Aukerman is taking another step toward her goal as one of 15 U.S. citizens selected for the prestigious Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship program.

"I want to do something that deals with ethnic conflict, particularly with the conflict in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe," said Ms. Aukerman, who begins her assignment in September. "I want to try to come up with peaceful resolutions so we don't end up with more Yugoslavias."

Each of the Bosch Fellows will spend nine months working at high-level, full-time jobs in the public and private sectors in Germany. Ms. Aukerman is assigned to the foreign office, the equivalent of our State Department.

"I'll be working at the former Soviet Union Desk, working with ethnic conflict in that area," said Ms. Aukerman. "There are also intense seminars and language training, etc."

Ms. Aukerman has trained for a career in conflict mediation and foreign relations since she graduated Westminster High School in 1987.

At Cornell University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in history, she worked as a conflict mediator at a local jail.

She was chosen to study for a semester, during her sophomore year, in the former Soviet Union and observed the system as it neard its collapse.

In June, she will complete a two-year master's program at Oxford University in England. She is studying international relations.

Her fellowship to Germany and related travel, she said, is "an opportunity to learn more about these other countries, an educational experience to give me a better understanding of the world."

Her curiosity about travel is shared by her family. Her mother, Ruth Aukerman, is an art teacher in Carroll and a native of Germany who moved to the United States with her husband, Dale, a writer and pastor in the Church of the Brethren, shortly before Miriam was born.

Ms. Aukerman's brother, Daniel, 26, is a medical student in New Mexico. Her sister, Maren, 23, is on a fellowship in India.

Ms. Aukerman credits her parents with being "very supportive. They encouraged us to do the things we wanted. They pushed us to do well in school, in drama, in music or anything we wanted to do."

She said she is very interested in assimilation and preservation of cultural identity. "How does a group become part of society in a country while preserving what is distinctive about that culture or language, without losing their sense of identity?" she said. "That's something countries have dealt with in different ways."

Ms. Aukerman said her ethnic-conflict training could be used in the United States: "I believe we have a lot to learn about how other other countries deal with their ethnic conflicts. They could learn from some of our effective resolutions, too."

She figures she can use her training to help work out the knots countries have in their international relations.

"Obviously, you can't change the world single-handedly, but I know I get a great satisfaction when people leave a room after I helped them solve a problem," Ms. Aukerman said. "I'd like to do that on a larger scale."

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