May 17, 2010; updated June 9, 2010
With the last-minute acceptance of another Amherst applicant, a record 12 seniors and recent graduates are among 1,500 U.S. citizens who have won J. William Fulbright Fellowships to study and teach abroad during the 2010-11 academic year. Previously the largest number of winners for the college was 10 during the 2008-09.
“This year’s Fulbright Fellows will embark on experiences that range from conducting research on the politics of Hungary to teaching English in Malaysia and studying and translating poetry in Brazil,” said Denise Gagnon, fellowships coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity for them—Fulbrights provide our graduating seniors and recent graduates amazing international experiences and cultural exchanges. I am really thrilled for them all.”
According to the program’s website, Congress created the Fulbright Program in 1946 “to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges.” Sen. J. William Fulbright, sponsor of the legislation, viewed 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 study or conduct research in more than 100 nations.
Benjamin Schweizer ’10E, who will teach English in Taiwan, perhaps best expressed the appreciation and thoughtfulness of the recipients, saying, “I am really honored and excited to become part of the Fulbright tradition. I hope that I will be able to use what I have learned during and around my time at Amherst to enrich the lives of those around me in some small fraction of the way I know my life will be enriched by the opportunity.”
In addition to Schweizer, winners from Amherst this year include William Braun ’10—who goes by his middle name, Evan—Ezra Cohn ’10, Christian Desrosiers ’10, Clare Howard ’10, Matthew Mendoza ’10, Julia Powers ’06, Anirudh Rajashekar ’10, Jamila Trindle ’02, Eszter Vincze ’10, Margaret Whittenberger ’10 and, as of the end of May, Michelle Barron ’10. Michael Kreisel ’10 and Jessica Mestre ’10 were named alternates.
What follows is some brief information on the 11 Fulbright winners and their plans.
Barron, an Ellisville, Mo., resident who majored in classics at Amherst, received a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea. During her college years, she served as a co-editor and senior editor of The Indicator journal of social and political thought and a member of the Amherst Feminist Alliance. She also worked as a museum monitor for the college’s Museum of Natural History, costume tech for the Department of Theater and Dance, peer tutor for students taking Greek language classes, orientation squad leader and tutor/mentor for Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit youth group aimed at empowering girls. She was the winner of Amherst’s William C. Collar Prize in Greek and Billings Prize in Latin. After her Fulbright year she intends to enroll in a Ph.D. program in linguistics and eventually teach at a college or university.
Braun, a German and economics major from Brentwood, Tenn., will use his fellowship to teach English at a secondary school in Saxony, Germany. At Amherst, he worked as a peer tutor in German and economics, teaching assistant in the economics department, student government senator, tour guide, student health educator and resident counselor. He also served on the Economics Student Advisory Committee and the Committee on Priorities and Resources, a faculty group that advises the college’s administration on budgetary matters. When he returns to the United States, he plans to enroll in a graduate degree program in international relations and economics and then pursue a career in German-American relations in academia, business and/or government.
Bethesda, Md., native and mathematics major Cohn will spend his Fulbright year in Indonesia, teaching English and, as he says, becoming a “more patient, creative, sensitive and engaging teacher and person.” During his time at college, he was president, resident and performer at the Arts House; secretary, board member and trip leader of the Outing Club; and president and senior advisor of Hillel. He played Ultimate Frisbee, served briefly on the Multifaith Council and worked as a geology teaching assistant. He was also awarded the college’s Walker Prize in Mathematics. While his plans may change after his Fulbright year, he intends to eventually consult or work for a local government or to serve as a research assistant at a think tank focused on education, housing or some other urban issue.
Like Cohn, Desrosiers received his Fulbright to teach English in Indonesia. The Waynesboro, Pa., resident and English major did volunteer work with the homeless, edited and wrote for The Amherst Student newspaper and played on the college’s varsity lacrosse team during his first and sophomore years. He was also a recipient of three different fellowships supporting a stint with Habitat for Humanity in Biloxi, Miss., senior thesis research and an internship with The Hudson Review literary magazine. When he returns to the United States, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in divinity and then teach English literature and/or English as a second language to high school students in high-poverty areas. He hopes to embark on a career in fiction and nonfiction writing as well.
Howard, a neuroscience major and Newton, Mass., native, was awarded a Fulbright to study at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research in Sweden, but declined the prize to accept a Cambridge Gates Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England. During her college career, she worked as a resident counselor, chaired the Amherst AIDS Coalition, co-founded and served as the president of the college’s chapter of Face AIDS and led the Amherst College Hillel, in addition to conducting research with several professors. A docent for the college’s MeadArt Museum, she was also elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate academic honors organization. At Cambridge, Howard will study for her master’s degree in biological science, conducting research in the laboratory of Andrea Brand, the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Biology and the director of research in developmental neurobiology at Cambridge’s Gurdon Institute. She hopes to pursue a career as a physician-scientist, which she said will enable her to follow her long-term dream of “integrating science and medicine in an attempt to find remedies for neurodevelopmental disorders and brain trauma.”
It’s hola, España for Mendoza, an independent scholar. The Merrimac, Mass., resident will teach English in Spain through his Fulbright fellowship while doing volunteer work with immigrant children in the country. He already has a good deal of experience in the classroom under his belt: He served as a teaching assistant for middle, elementary and special-needs high school students while at Amherst, as well as an assistant teacher in college-organized summer program for local public school students. Doing ethnographic research on the training of teachers for his senior thesis (which was awarded the Donald S. Pitkin Prize from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology) was another way in which he engaged with issues of educational theory and practice. On campus, he participated in the Glee Club and a Christian a cappella group, had writing published in The Amherst Student and The Indicator and worked at the college’s dining hall. After his Fulbright year, he plans to teach at either the community college or elementary level in a predominately Latino community.
Powers, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in English, will spend her Fulbright year in Brazil studying and translating the work of two of the nation’s poets, Maria Lúcia Dal Farra and Adélia Prado. The Fulbright fellowship will enable her to collaborate on the translations with Dal Farra herself while taking classes in Brazilian literature at the Universidade Federal da Bahia; it will also support her travels to interview Prado and discuss her translations with the poet. After graduating from Amherst, she worked for a time as a poetry editor for The Hudson Review and now lives in Rome, where she teaches English and translates Italian poetry. During her college years, she acted in several plays, volunteered as a literacy tutor, played on an intramural softball team and participated in a synchronized swimming group. She was awarded the Elizabeth Bruss Prize, the English department’s top honor for a graduating senior; the Corbin Prize, which recognizes the best essay of the year; and the Bryant Prize acting award for the best lead role in a production. When she returns to the United States, she hopes to publish her translations of Dal Farra’s poetry and enroll in a Ph.D. program in comparative literature.
Rajashekar, a history and economics major and Bangalore, India, resident, has been awarded his Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Malaysia. Through it, he said, he plans to help high school students learn conversational English. During his time in the country he plans to take courses himself in silat (an indigenous Southeast Asian martial art) and the Malay and Tamil languages to gain a “fuller appreciation and understanding of Malaysian culture.” At Amherst, he was a member of the Cricket Club and Entrepreneurs’ Society, of which he was also vice president. He received several fellowships that have enabled him to work at the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi India and the Agastya International Foundation India, a teaching initiative in the rural parts of the country, as well as complete senior thesis research. After his Fulbright year, he hopes to enroll in a graduate program in Southeast Asian history with an emphasis on Tamil-speaking migrants and eventually work for the U.S. government.
Joining the ranks of the teachers in this year’s Fulbright group is Philadelphia resident Schweizer, who majored in English and art and the history of art. He will take his skills to Taiwan, where he says he will “cherish the opportunity to be immersed in the culture and language” of the country. Like several of his Fulbright colleagues, Schweizer has some experiences in the classroom already, having interned at a Brooklyn, N.Y., high school through the college’s urban education program and volunteered at a home for underprivileged children in Kathmandu, Nepal. Many of his activities at Amherst were arts- and performance-related: he participated in the comedy troupe Mr. Gad’s House of Improv and acted, danced and did backstage work for various plays and shows produced by the theater and dance department. He also served as a student representative for a search in the Department of Art and the History of Art and interned at a nearby contemporary art museum. He hopes to one day pursue a graduate degree in bilingual education.
Currently an international freelance TV, radio and print reporter, Trindle, a Stevenson, Md., resident and 2002 Amherst alumna, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct research on overseas workers and their contributions to the Filipino economy at the University of the Philippines’ Third WorldStudiesCenter. Since applying for the Fulbright, other significant career options have developed for the journalist, and she is contemplating whether or not to accept the fellowship. But if she were to take the grant, she says, she will use it to create a series of journalistic pieces and multimedia website exploring the country’s migrant laborers, their families and the effects of their remittances on local communities. An English major at college, Trindle won the department’s Stephen E. Whicher Prize for her senior thesis and went on to earn three prestigious awards: a Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace to study Mandarin Chinese at Middlebury College, a Reporting Fellowship from the International Center for Journalists and a Luce Scholarship from the Luce Foundation Shanghai. She also has been recognized by several local press associations for her journalistic work.
Vincze, a Rockville, Md., native and political science and French major, also received a Fulbright grant for research. She will use her fellowship to collaborate with the faculty at PázmányPeterCatholicUniversity and study the intra- and inter-party politics of the groups that govern Hungary, as well as the growing resistance to deepening integration into the European Union. After studying EU policies in Western Europe in depth, she says, she is excited to spend more time in Hungary and explore the process of Europeanization in Eastern Europe. During her time at Amherst, Vincze helped coordinate an internship placement program, tutored students in Hungarian language courses, taught adults in a basic education program and was a member of the women’s rugby club and women’s chorus. She was a recipient of the Jeffrey J. Carre Award and Frederick King Turgeon Prize, both for excellence in French language. After her Fulbright year, she will apply to a master’s program for political science so she can continue her studies of the European Union.
Last but definitely not least is Whittenberger, a Billings, Mont., native who will teach English in India to “learn about India in a genuine way—not as a tourist, but as someone who spends an extensive amount of time interacting with Indian teachers and students.” An English major, Whittenberger has served as a managing copy editor and editor-in-chief for The Indicator, the college’s magazine of social and political thought; co-chair of a group promoting global civil rights for women; tutor for an English-as-a-second-language program at the town library; volunteer for Amherst’s first-year orientation program; teaching assistant for the geology department and resident counselor. She was the recipient of the college’s James Charlton Knox Prize for independent literary research and two Fellowships for Action, which supported her internships at two nonprofits. She hopes to one day pursue a graduate degree in education.