July 27, 2023

Katt Purington (MSW ’23, BASW ’22) was one of eight University of Washington students to receive the prestigious 2023 Bonderman Travel Fellowship. Purington graduated from the School of Social Work’s MSW program in spring 2023. 


Each member of the 2023 Bonderman cohort receives $23,000 to independently explore world regions for up to eight months. The broad vision of the program is to inspire individual transformation by expanding the fellows’ understanding of themselves and of the complex and interconnected world in which we live. 

Purington, who counts both Newport News, Va., and Seattle, Wash., as their hometown, has chosen to explore Japan, The Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Laos and Cambodia as part of their fellowship. “I want to look for people like me who want to celebrate their strength, pride and tenacity as a queer person,” Purington said. “People like me who have formed their own countercultures through their need to have human connection in a sometimes unkind world.” 


Administered by the University Honors Program and the Graduate School, the Bonderman program is made possible by alumnus David Bonderman, who has sponsored these life-changing journeys for nearly 30 years. In 2017, Bonderman reiterated his commitment to the program by providing a new $10 million endowment. Since 1995, 280 students have been named Bonderman fellows. 


In 2023, the Bonderman selection process was limited to graduate and professional students. The awards committee looked for applicants who demonstrated self-knowledge, interpersonal and cross-cultural skills and interests, resilience and fortitude. 


While traveling, Bonderman fellows may not participate in a program or organization, study at a foreign university, conduct research or travel with an organized group. Rather, the purpose is to introduce students to cultures, peoples and areas of the world with which they are unfamiliar.