- Martin Loicano attributes his newly won $18,000-a-year fellowship
to pursue doctoral studies at a prestigious Ivy League school
to his experience as an enthusiastic participant in The University
of Southern Mississippi's Vietnam Studies Program.
native of Fort Worth, Texas, and New Orleans who earned
a master of arts degree in history from Southern Miss last
summer just received a five-year Sage Fellowship for
work on a doctorate in Asian studies at Cornell University
starting next fall.
attributed his success to three straight years of participating
in Southern Miss' popular Vietnam Studies Program, which earlier
this year won a Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International
Education. The program, he said, changed the course of his
finishing New Orleans' St. Martin's school, Loicano traveled
and worked at odd jobs before entering Southern Miss, where
he began studying history under the tutelage of professors
Andy Wiest, Bradley Bond and Orazio Ciccarelli, among others.
He left Southern Miss to earn a bachelor's degree in history from Louisiana
State University in 1999, but returned to Southern Miss later
that year to enter graduate school.
in graduate school, I knew I very much wanted to spend my
life studying history, but I had not yet focused that interest,"
he said. "In 2000, I had the opportunity to take Dr.
Wiest's Vietnam War course, one of Southern Miss's best in my opinion...
In Dr. Wiest's class, I discovered a subject that fascinated
me, taught by a man whose extraordinary enthusiasm and talent
a Hattiesburg native and authority on military history, said
he remembered Loicano as a former Southern Miss freshman from "zillions
of years ago" who got "turned on to history."
spending time working at a car dealership, Martin came here
for his M.A.," said Wiest. "He didn't really know
what he wanted to do but got involved in the very first
Vietnam study-abroad experience in 2000. I think that it is
safe to say the experience changed his life. He came back
from Vietnam with direction and passion.
also came back from Vietnam with marketable skills and an
experience that set him apart on the job and in the graduate
school market," added the professor, noting that Loicano
also participated in the study-abroad trips to Vietnam in
2001 and 2002, and plans to return this year.
said his initial interest in coming up with the $4,000 cost
of the study-abroad program was further perked by the presentations
of John Young a Vietnam veteran from Picayune, a victim
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from three combat
tours, and a regular participant in Wiest's annual class on
the war and on the trips to Vietnam.
decision to make a lifetime study of Vietnamese history came
directly from my first experience in Vietnam in 2000,"
said Loicano. "Anyone who has been to Vietnam can tell
you it is a truly remarkable place.
as soon as we got off the plane at Tan Son Nhut airport in
Saigon, I knew this place would remain a fascination of mine
for life," he continued. "The people, the very land
itself are so incredibly alive, so resilient. By creating
this program, John, Dr. Wiest and all those involved have
transformed my life."
Bolton, professor and Southern Miss history chair, noted Loicano
is the second student of Wiest in the past few years to continue
their studies at an Ivy League School. Mary Kathryn Barber,
a 1999 Southern Miss doctoral graduate, received the John M. Odin Post-doctoral
Fellowship in Military History at Yale University.
certainly reflects well on Andy and on the military history
program in our department," said Bolton.
program is seen by professionals in the field as a model of
a university on the rise," added Wiest.
taught world history courses at Southern Miss and at Dillard
University in New Orleans, and Wiest said his three successive
years of travel to Vietnam helped him land a job as a history
instructor at the University of New Orleans while still working
on his M.A. at Southern Miss. His master's thesis, added the professor,
detailed the relationship between U.S. advisers and the South
Vietnamese military a topic described by Wiest as "under-researched."
doubt, Martin's experience in Vietnam once again set him apart
from the crowd of applicants at Cornell," Wiest maintained.
"How many other applicants to Cornell's prestigious Asian
Studies Program could say that they had studied in Vietnam
said he looking forward to his doctoral work at Cornell and
eventually hopes to find a job teaching history and Asian
studies "somewhere like Southern Miss, where I can try my best
to create opportunities like the ones that the History Department
at Southern Miss created for me."