Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More students to go abroad on Fulbright scholarships

The University has tied last year’s record for Fulbright travel scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year.The Fulbright scholarship is a state department-funded award that provides grants for participants to travel abroad to conduct research, teach, study or complete creative projects. Eleven University students were awarded grants this year, nine of which accepted. The awards are given to approximately 1,600 people each year, and about 45 University students applied for the 2011-2012 grant.Maria de Rocher, Fulbright program adviser for the University, said the number of Fulbright awards given to University students has been increasing over the past several years.

These are the highest numbers we’ve ever had, despite it getting more and more competitive, de Rocher said.Reasons for this increase could vary, she said. Students who study abroad as undergraduates may find they want to go back to do more intensive work in another country, and apply for a Fulbright to do so. Or, they may apply because they are having trouble finding money to fund their research elsewhere.Last year, the University also had nine students out of 11 accept their award, which broke the 2009-2010 record of 10 awards. De Rocher said the scholarship award lists for other universities haven’t been published yet, but last year the University had close to the same number as institutions such as Dartmouth College and the University of California, Los Angeles.Brinkley Warren, a University masters student in mass media and advertising, will be using his scholarship to travel to New Zealand for one year after he graduates this December. He will be installing an interactive art project in two cities in New Zealand, as well as another in Athens after he returns. He said he applied to the Fulbright as a way to fund the idea for the project, which he developed in the University’s Art X program.

I looked around at grants and there was really not that much funding for this kind of artwork in the United States, he said.I applied to the Fulbright simply as a way to make this specific project happen.Warren will be working with local artists to construct two wishing wells, one in the north part of the island and one in the south. A video screen and camera will be installed in each well, so that observers will be able to see people looking into the other well hundreds of miles away.I’ve always been fascinated ever since I was a kid about the idea of possibly digging a hole through the earth and ending up in a different country,he said.I thought it would be a cool way to use video software technology in a creative way that nobody’s done before.

Warren said he wants the project to allow people in different areas to be able to exchange with one another without having to physically be near one another an opportunity he hopes will allow respect and knowledge of other cultures to grow.Leasa Weimer, a Ph.D. student at the University’s Institute of Higher Education, is already putting her grant money to use. She has been in Finland since August conducting research for her dissertation, which explores the effects of the country’s recently-introduced tuition for public universities. She will be interviewing policy makers, faculty and administrators at local universities to find out why the tuition fees were introduced. She said she looks forward to the cultural experiences she’ll have in the country as much as the academic ones.

The great thing about Fulbright is you get a monthly grant to not only do your research but also experience the local culture,she said. “For me, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it as well. Of course the research is my priority but also living in a different country and experiencing a different country it’s an amazing opportunity.Heather Gallivan, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in anthropology, said she knew since she started her Ph.D. program at the University that she wanted to apply for the Fulbright. She’ll be leaving next semester for Indonesia to research marine conservation in the Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, one part of a larger initiative to protect marine biodiversity. She said she’s excited to spend time with the Indonesian people, as well as learning about their conservation efforts and initiatives.I think it’s going to be really great just to be in Indonesia day to day,she said.I think as an anthropologist I’m interested in every aspect from the smallest detail to the larger-scale issues, so it’ll just be a really exciting time.

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