Ten members of the Amherst class of 2016 and a 2015 graduate have been offered Fulbright scholarships to teach and study abroad in the coming year.
For the past 10 years, the Fulbright Scholar Program has recognized Amherst for its unusually high number of scholarship recipients. This trend has consistently placed the College high on the list of programs The Chronicle of Higher Education deems to be “top producers” of Fulbright scholars.
The Fulbright Fellowship, founded in 1946 by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, is one of the most prestigious awards in the world, claiming among its alumni 43 Nobel Laureates and 78 Pulitzer Prize winners. This international educational exchange program operates in over 155 countries worldwide, sponsored by the U.S. government to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Meet Amherst’s 2016–2017 Fulbright Fellows:
Jesse Chou ’15 has been offered an ETA in Rwanda. He majored in English at Amherst, and is completing a master of science program at Georgetown University this year. In Rwanda, he will practice speaking French and try to learn other regional languages such as Kinyarwanda. He plans to encourage his students to attend “open mic” events to share their writing. His long-range plans include graduate school and teaching. “I would relish the chance to teach medical humanities and bioethics in a global context, [and] I would hope to return to Africa to learn more about the vast continent and its varied literatures,” he said.
Thomas Sommers ’16 has been offered a Fulbright research grant for biology. A neuroscience major, he plans to conduct research at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, Norway, focusing on the function of the habenula, a part of the brain which has not often been studied. The project involves using digital holography to stimulate various zebrafish brain areas and recording electrical activity in the brain. He plans to help organize TED Talks about the research and participate in a youth mentorship program. His post-Fulbright plans include enrolling in medical school and becoming a physician and researcher in neuroscience.
Olivia Truax ’16 has been offered a Fulbright research grant to New Zealand in geology. She plans to work with researchers at the University of Otago in reconstructing how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has responded to warming over the last 11,000 years. By analyzing sediment core from the Ross Sea, researchers hope to get important information for predicting the impact of climate change in the coming decades. Following her fellowship, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in paleoclimatology. As a geoscientist, she hopes to collaborate with policymakers on climate initiatives.
The Fulbright is not the only program to which Amherst students have been flocking. Application numbers for national fellowships—Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford, Marshall Scholarships to the United Kingdom and Schwarzman Scholarships to China—are increasing, and Amherst is near the top of the list for participation in the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, which provides funding for one year of independent research and travel.