Meet The 2012 Fulbrights

Submitted on Tuesday, 6/5/2012, at 12:53 PM

By William Sweet

Nine recent Amherst graduates have won J. William Fulbright Fellowships to study and teach abroad.

The latest Fulbright Scholars from the Class of 2012 include…

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Anthropology major Bethany Brown, who has taught English in Hangzhou, China, and was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to teach in Bulgaria. She looks forward to a career in international education. “I want to teach what I know and question what I doubt, to learn from experience, to share lives as worlds collide,” she wrote in her Fulbright application.

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Marlis Gnirke, who will travel to Berlin to conduct research on stem cell and regenerative biology, focusing specifically on the role of microRNA in brain development. The ultimate goal of this research is to help develop cell-based therapies for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

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Taylor Davis Haney, an English and music major who will spend the next year researching the impact of the Tibetan diaspora on the musical traditions of Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India, the largest community of Tibetans in exile. He will spend his time there studying the extensive audiovisual collection at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. He plans to study the music of other diasporic communities as a graduate student.

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Russian and music double major Dana Kaufman, who was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, where she will study the ethnomusicology of Estonia and its minority Russian-speaking communities. Kaufman plans to do field research and make recordings of such sounds as factory noise, birdcalls, traffic and street performers, which she plans to include in her own compositions. Her goal is to perform such compositions at concerts in Estonia and upon her return to the U.S.

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Benjamin Lin, who will spend a year in Istanbul researching the local geology and political economy of earthquakes while taking relevant courses at Boğaziçi University. “Istanbul is now in the crosshairs” of the next great quake, Lin wrote in his application: the city sits only about 12 miles north of the North Anatolian Fault, which has produced a dozen powerful earthquakes since 1939.

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Alexa Russo, who will go to Udaipur, India, to work with the nonprofit organization Seva Mandir. There, she will examine “the impediments that prevent women from participating in microcredit programs,” in order to help women in poverty gain access to additional resources, she wrote.

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Sarah Schear, whose project, “Women’s Empowerment and Sex Ratios,” focuses on women and families in northwest India as they make family planning decisions. She will look at women’s rights, sex-selective abortion and the falling birthrate of baby girls. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician or family practitioner to work with low-income women, children and refugees and to work as an advocate for global health equity.

 In addition, two 2011 graduates numbered among this year’s Fulbright announcements.

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Alex Coburn, who concentrated in environmental studies and architecture at Amherst, was accepted to the University of Cambridge for a one-year master’s program in environmental design in architecture. His year is being funded through Amherst’s Kellogg Fellowship as well as a Fulbright Travel Grant.

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Jamie Cohen, who pursued an interdisciplinary major in international development and African studies at Amherst, was awarded a research grant to study the treatment of HIV in South Africa. She will work with the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and study the impact of nurse-initiated and managed antiretroviral therapy.

Congress established the Fulbright Program in 1946 to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. Sen. J. William Fulbright, sponsor of the legislation, saw scholarship as an alternative to armed conflict. Today the program is funded by an annual Congressional appropriation and contributions from other participating countries, allowing Americans to teach or conduct research in over 155 countries worldwide. Approximately 1,700 U.S. students and 4,000 foreign students receive Fulbright scholarships each year. Fulbright alumni are the recipients of 43 Nobel Prizes, 78 Pulitzer Prizes, 28 MacArthur Foundation Awards and 16 U.S. Presidential Medals of Freedom.