109th Convocation gets Conn’s academic year off to a sharp start
Six Connecticut College seniors and three recent alumni have been selected to receive U.S. Fulbright Student Program grants to live, conduct research and teach abroad for an academic year. The nine awards are a record for the College; the previous record of five awards in one year was set in 2007 and matched in 2008 and 2011. Four of the awards are Fulbright Research Grants and five are Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships.
"The Fulbright is a strong complement to the Connecticut College liberal arts experience, and to receive nine in one year is a testament to the College's commitment to educate our students to be active citizens in a global society," President Leo I. Higdon Jr. said. "I am very proud of these talented students and young alumni - for all they have accomplished and for the success I know they will achieve during their fellowships and beyond."
Fulbright fellows receive round-trip transportation to the host country, a living stipend, research allowances and medical insurance. Connecticut College is consistently recognized as a top producer of Fulbright fellows, with 31 winners in six years. The 2012 winners are Savitri Arvey '12, Rebecca Cheney '12, Catharina Damrell '11, Myles Green '09, Justin Koufopoulos '10, Elizabeth Maret '12, Lindsay Paiva '12, Katherine Sartiano '12 and Karam Sethi '12.
Savitri Arvey '12, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Mexico Arvey, an international relations major and scholar in the College's Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), will teach English at a university or teachers college in Mexico. She plans to work with her students on a photo documentary project to investigate issues specific to their local community. "I became interested in critical education and the Mexican education system while taking Professor [Michael] James' 'Revolutionary Education' class last year," Arvey said. "A Fulbright seemed like the perfect way to pursue both of these interests. Arvey said her experiences conducting research, studying and interning in Latin America through the CISLA program, as well as volunteering in New London schools and as a tutor, have prepared her well for the Fulbright program. Following her Fulbright year, she plans to attend graduate school.
Rebecca Cheney '12, Fulbright Research Award, Japan Cheney, a Japanese language and literatureEast Asian Languages and Culturesmajor and CISLA scholar, will spend the year in the area of Hokkaido, Japan, investigating the potential to implement a public school curriculum to revitalize the language of the indigenous Ainu. "I will be working with Ainu activists, school teachers and researchers to develop plans that can be used to facilitate school atmospheres that foster Ainu indigenous identity and respectfully utilize Ainu epistemologies," Cheney said. Cheney credits the College's East Asian Languages and Cultures and Departments with fostering her passion for the preservation of indigenous cultures. "Both have been instrumental in shaping my world view and my decision to go into indigenous advocacy work," she said. Cheney plans to teach and pursue a graduate degree in education policy after the completion of her Fulbright fellowship.
Catharina Damrell '11, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Indonesia Damrell, who majored in environmental studies at Connecticut College, will teach in Indonesia, a country that has intrigued her since childhood. "I grew up in an international household - my mother is from the Netherlands and my father is American," Damrell said. "Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch for 350 years, and thus I grew up with flares of Indonesian culture and cuisine." Damrell said she plans to spend the year developing lesson plans, engaging with the community and exploring Indonesia from an environmental perspective. "I hope to learn more about how they manage their natural resources and the issues they face," she said. Damrell, who moved back to her home state of Maine after graduation to work as a scientific technician at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, said she hopes to attend graduate school after her Fulbright year and eventually pursue a career in marine fisheries and fishery management.
Myles Green '09, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Italy Green, who was a double major in Italian and art at Connecticut College, will teach at one or two Italian high schools and hopes to complete an independent project working with immigrant communities. "The Fulbright is an excellent opportunity to learn, grow and explore with others and on my own," said Green, who won the College's 2009 Oakes and Louise Ames Prize, one of the two highest awards bestowed on students, for his thesis, "Oriental Bittersweet and Other Invasive Species: Americans in North America." Green said the experience of completing his senior thesis has shaped his post-graduate life and inspired him to pursue the Fulbright. "An extraordinary amount of sharing and collaboration took place," he said. "After graduating, I've been seeking to cultivate more of these moments, whether through living in the community, growing vegetables with others or teaching at a public high school." Since the spring of 2011, Green has been teaching Italian at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody, Mass. He hopes to share all of the videos, interviews and stories he gathers in Italy with his students at the school, and also plans to publish a children's story about a curious cat upon his return.
Justin Koufopoulos '10, Fulbright Research Award, United Kingdom Koufopoulos, who majored in psychology with a minor in East Asian studies, will spend the year conducting a series of social science experiments at the University of Leeds. He will also be pursuing a master's degree in psychology from the university. "My research focuses on imagined contact, which is an intervention that aims to reduce unconscious or implicit prejudice in conflict," Koufopoulos said. "A larger goal of mine is to explore how research in the social sciences can create meaningful products or services for society." Koufopoulos, who has been working in Washington, D.C., as a consultant for the public policy, defense and management consultant industries, said it is an honor to have been selected from more than 600 applicants for one of approximately 35 U.K. Fulbright Research Awards. "At this level of competition, everyone is extremely qualified," he said. After completing his Fulbright research and his master's at the University of Leeds, Koufopoulos hopes to continue to explore how research can be used to create meaningful products by engaging with startup companies and gaining social enterprise and entrepreneurship experience.
Elizabeth Maret '12, Fulbright Research Award, Japan Maret, a double major in physics and Japanese, is interested in researching optical physics at a Japanese University. "It has been a goal of mine to become proficient in Japanese since I was about 13. To now have the opportunity for immersion while simultaneously building my physics knowledge seems like the perfect culmination of almost a decade's worth of work," she said. Maret, who is co-captain of the women's cross country team, first became interested in optical physics research while working with Professor Mohamed Diagne '97 on a project to introduce light-based control systems into neuroscience research. "The precision and timescale resolution that light-based communication systems provide is a key tool in improving the methods of biological probing," she said. Maret's areas of research interest include photonics and bio-imaging and the application of optical physics to biomedical engineering and diagnostic and therapeutic medicine. She has been accepted to the applied physics Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, where she plans to study the application of optics in diagnostic medicine.
Lindsay Paiva '12, Fulbright Research Award, Italy Paiva, an English major, Italian studies minor and scholar in the College's Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, will spend the year researching the "Tuscan Model" education system with Professor Enzo Catarsi, an education professor at the University of Florence. The "Tuscan Model" is designed to increase the quality of life for Tuscan citizens by promoting lifelong learning through access to education and vocational training. "I am interested in how this educational model operates theoretically, methodologically and pedagogically to produce and sustain educational opportunities for Tuscans of all ages," Paiva said. "I hope to conduct interviews with program participants, especially those in the older cohort, in order to understand the outreach and access portions of the program." Paiva, who is also completing the elementary education certification program at Connecticut College, said a "spectacular" experience studying abroad last spring in Perugia, Italy, convinced her to apply for the Fulbright. "I was entranced by the people and the places," she said, adding that her Fulbright project was inspired by the time she spent teaching English at a local high school there. "The more time I spent there, the more I knew I just had to go back." After she returns from Italy, Paiva hopes to teach elementary school or work for a youth development or education policy nonprofit. Eventually, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in education policy, with the goal of working for an education policy generation and implementation think tank.
Katherine Sartiano '12, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Germany Sartiano, an English and German double major and CISLA scholar, will teach English at a German school, combining her passion for teaching with her love of German culture. Sartiano said she was inspired to pursue the Fulbright by her study abroad experience in Germany and her work volunteering in the New London public schools and working at the writing centers at Connecticut College and the Coast Guard. While in Germany, she completed a College-funded internship at the Mannheim Institute for Integration and Inter-Religious Dialogue, where one of her main responsibilities was to give tours of the country's largest mosque to students of all ages and religious backgrounds. "The students were always very engaged and genuinely excited to participate in discussions," she said. Sartiano, who has recently completed a Senior Integrated Project on the role of humor in literature by German-Turkish authors, plans to attend law school in the United States after completing her Fulbright Fellowship.
Karam Sethi '12, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Malaysia Sethi, an international relations major with a concentration in national security, will teach English at a primary or secondary school in one of Malaysia's three Muslim provinces, Terengganu, Pahang or Johor. While there, he plans to teach a class on the basics of photography or start a small soccer league. "I want to interact with different cultures, not simply read about them," Sethi said. "Like the U.S., Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and religions. Much of my research at Conn has revolved around cultural collisions in underdeveloped countries and I believe Malaysia can serve as a model for peaceful coexistence." Sethi, who hopes to attend graduate school for international affairs and ultimately pursue a career in national security policy research, said being surrounded by passionate people at Connecticut College has had a tremendous impact on him. "I have professors who have been wartime photographers and United Nations observers. I have friends who are playing professional soccer in South Africa and creating cutting edge sounds that will end up revolutionizing the music industry. Seeing amazing people accomplish amazing things pushed me to want to do the same," he said.