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UCLA Senior Among 20 Students on All-USA Academic First Team

March 21, 1993|CHRISTINA V. GODBEY

It was not your typical senior thesis.

UCLA anthropology major Narquis Barak spent three months in a small Nigerian village last summer (catching a nasty case of malaria along the way), studying religious rituals of people whose language she did not understand.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed. Last month, Barak, 22, was selected for USA Today's All-USA College Academic First Team and was awarded a $2,500 prize at a ceremony in Washington. She was one of 20 students chosen nationally from 1,300 applicants.

Candidates were judged by a panel of educators on scholarship, university leadership and academic pursuits.

"The things that I do aren't exactly normative, and I wasn't going to apply," Barak said. "At the last minute, I decided to apply and I'm thankful that I did."

During her three months in a village named Ede, Barak studied the psychology of religious behavior. With the aid of a translator, she met with five priestesses and examined their religious rituals, focusing her research on the ways in which this particular African culture dealt with the issues of fertility, barrenness and a phenomenon called the rebirth of spirit.

"I studied a specific cultural idiom that says some children are believed to be spirited from birth," she said. "I learned the most when I was observing, not interacting, because the people were so rich with folklore."

A native of Israel who grew up in Houston, Barak said she has always wanted to travel to Africa. "Ever since I was really little, I wanted to go to Kenya," she said. "I always like National Geographic and would immerse myself (in the magazines)."

Despite coming down with malaria near the end of her trip, Barak completed her research. Next month, she hopes to submit the finished honors thesis version to a scholarly journal for publication.

After graduation, she plans to take a year off and perhaps conduct research for a documentary on West Africa before attending graduate school.

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Jewish Family Service of Santa Monica will present its Distinguished Citizens Award to Dr. David Trader, chairman of the division of psychiatry at Century City Hospital, for his work with the agency's Senior Alliance for the Frail Elderly program.

Naomi Steinhardt will also be recognized for her 20 years of service on the agency's staff.

They will be honored at the nonprofit organization's annual meeting tonight at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

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Won-Mo Kim, a music professor at Loyola Marymount University, has been invited to conduct two orchestras in Korea later this month.

Kim, a member of the Los Angeles Trio, will conduct the Inchon Municipal Orchestra and the Seoul Youth Orchestra. He has appeared as a violin and viola soloist with major orchestras and in recitals and chamber music concerts on radio and television in the United States, Europe and Asia.

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Nina Ball has been named a national outstanding leader in the 1993 edition of "Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges".

Ball, a resident of Culver City, is a senior at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont. She was selected for her academic achievement, service to the community and leadership in extracurricular activities by the college's faculty and "Who's Who."

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The Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation at UCLA will honor Harvey Kibel, president of the foundation, and Dr. Jean deKernion, professor and chief of the division of urology at the UCLA School of Medicine.

The pair will be recognized at Gala '93, a fund-raising dinner to be held April 3 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

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Linda Butler has been named Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center's Volunteer of the Year.

The West Los Angeles resident was nominated by fellow volunteers, hospital employees and physicians. A volunteer in the hospital's duplicating center and business office, she has donated more than 3,000 hours of service during the last five years.

She was also the recipient of the "Pinnacle Award for Voluntarism" by the hospital's parent organization, UniHealth America, which honors volunteers at its 11 medical centers.

Mail items to People Column, Suite 200, 1717 4th St., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.

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