Fulbright, Watson & Carnegie Scholars
Issue   |   Fri, 05/22/2015 - 11:03


Amar Mukunda

Amar Mukunda is a computer science and geology major who is passionate about translation. He has been offered a Fulbright grant to travel to Switzerland and research Kamusi, an “online living dictionary” currently under development.

Kamusi pairs equivalent words in every language and has the potential to improve machine translation tools, but no existing machine translation platform is currently compatible with it. Mukunda submitted a research proposal that aims to identify the obstacles keeping Kamusi from aiding machine translation and test some of its proposed benefits in the process.

Because multilingualism is at the heart of Swiss national identity, Mukunda plans to interview translators in Geneva, Basil and Zurich in order to better understand the role of multilingualism in everyday Swiss culture and how this new software could impact the Swiss community. Mukunda wrote in his application that after he returns home, he plans on applying to graduate programs in computer science with a focus on natural language processing.

Christine Miranda

Christine Miranda has been offered a Fulbright grant to study the West Indian population of Panama. The American studies and computer science major has had a deep passion for service after years working at the homeless shelter Homeless Connect in downtown Amherst. She hopes to focus specifically on spaces in Panama that are important to the community’s history and culture and examine the formal and informal community spaces of Panama City’s West Indian population. Miranda finds cultural spaces vital to community culture because they function as alternate sites of learning and healing when the mainstream narrative misrepresents a marginalized group.

She plans to further use her affiliation with the Society of Friends of the West Indian Museum of Panama to help participate in the planning of West Indian cultural events like community meals. Through her Fulbright experience Miranda plans to enhance her understanding of how transnational migrant communities create their own support networks and organizations and use that to contribute to U.S. based grassroots organizations that share this vision of self-directed transformative justice.

Miranda wrote in her application that in the future, she hopes to work with domestic immigrant rights’ groups and possibly pursue a higher degree in American or migration studies.

Matthew GoodSmith

Matthew GoodSmith has been offered a Fulbright grant to conduct chemistry research at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. GoodSmith has followed the pre-med track duirng his time at Amherst and will graduate a degree in geology. His proposed project at Eindhoven will connect these interests in geology and medicine. His research involves the controlled growing of magnetite nanoparticles, which have magnetic and biocompatible properties of interest to medical and environmental research. If passion for medicine and the environment are not enough, GoodSmith is also deeply dedicated to music. While at Amherst he was a music tutor in local public schools, Vice President of the Amherst College Jazz Program Board and a show host on Amherst College public radio. In the Netherlands, GoodSmith hopes to learn Dutch in order to engage more fully with the community and join the student jazz association at the Eindhoven University.

GoodSmith wrote in his application that he hopes to apply to medical school in the United States and possibly pursue a M.D.-Ph.D. program so that he can continue exploring bio-inspired mineralization and its medical applications.

Savannah West

Chicago native Savannah West will travel to South Africa next year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. A political science and art history double major, West has always been interested in both social justice and cultural exchange. While at Amherst, West was a highly involved student on campus and dedicated herself to many different groups, including the Black Student Union, the senior gift committee, Judiciary Council, the Center for Community Engagement and Dance and Step at Amherst College.

In South Africa, West hopes to engage with her host community through attending painting class with regional artists and studying post-apartheid graffiti in the nation’s urban areas. In the classroom, West plans on creating a curriculum that addresses issues of social justice.

After completing her English Teaching Assistantship West hopes to return to Chicago and work within the Chicago public school system for a year, applying what she has learned from South Africa’s classrooms and educational policies to her work in underserved communities in Chicago. West hopes to receive a dual degree in education and public policy by 2019, continuing her dedication to teaching and social justice.

Timothy Gaura

Anthropology major Timothy Gaura has been offered a Fulbright fellowship to spend the next year in Malaysia working as an English Teaching Assistant. Gaura wrote in his application that he first became interested in Malaysian culture after dining at a Malaysian restaurant with a new friend during the National Model United Nations conference in New York City. Little did he know that his new friendship would lead to a Fulbright to Malaysia.

“I want to be a bridge-maker — teacher of empathy, respect and understanding — a connector of worlds,” Gaura wrote.

“I agree with Malaysia’s Educational Blueprint that the best hope for the future can be secured through education and I share many of the underlying values needed to accomplish this goal. This is why I want to teach in Malaysia,” he added.

Known as one of the few students, if not the only student, who navigates campus on a unicycle, Gaura hopes to use this unusual skill, along with an array of others, like juggling, to teach others to push their limits.

“For many people, juggling is as unreachable as a better life; both are ‘impossible’ because they are limited by the doubt within their minds — this doubt is also a great hindrance to language acquisition,” he wrote.

Swathi Sivasubramanian

Having worked as a seventh grade math teacher during the summer of 2012 for Breakthrough Cambridge, Swathi Sivasbramian already has some experience teaching. The neuroscience major has been offered the opportunity to continue her teaching next year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia. Sivasbramian has made frequent trips to India and hopes to use her knowledge of the Tamil culture and language to strengthen her interaction with the Malaysian communities.

“I am drawn to Malaysia because of its diversity of language, religion, culture. Tamil culture, a culture in which I am well-versed from my many trips to India, is but a component of the complex cultural landscape of Malaysia, and I am fascinated by the effects of such diversity on the realities of everyday life,” Sivasbramian wrote in her application.

One way that Sivasbramian hopes to connect to others in Malaysia is through music.

“This experience leading a musical group, along with the experience singing in an a cappella group throughout college, showed me the power of music to nurture friendships, “ she wrote. “And I would love to bring my music teaching experience to Malaysia to do the same.”

Sophia Padelford

Biology and classics major Sophia Padelford has been offered the opportunity to continue her seven years of teaching experience by working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bulgaria next year.

Rather than teach through one rigid style, Padelford has learned to cater her teaching to different students through tutoring at Amherst and in high school.

“With 18-year-olds as with 8-year-olds, I’ve found that my teaching is most effective when the material is presented in a way that is personally relevant,” Padelford said in her application.

Her first exposure to Bulgaria was through her one of her majors.

“As a classics major, I first became aware of Bulgaria through my study of Roman history, as the modern descendant of Thrace and Moesia. These were outposts of the Roman Empire where local culture and Roman cultural influence were intertwined,” Padelford wrote.

Padelford believes the most important part of her time in Bulgaria will come through personal interactions with those around her.

“I hope there will be many small moments that will make up a mosaic of cultural exchange — learning how to cook a favorite Bulgarian dish, playing pick-up soccer with my students, or inviting my neighbors over for coffee,” Padelford wrote.

Samanta English

Samanta English was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in South Korea for the 2015-2016 academic year. Originally from Brooklyn, English applied for the Fulbright because of her dream to go into early childhood education.

“This passion for teaching comes across in all the work I do with children,” she stated in her application.

It is clear that English has pursued this passion throughout her life. At Amherst, English was the Community Engagement Leader for Girls Incorporated of Holyoke, a tutoring service in the Holyoke community. She has worked in a range of classroom environments from Brooklyn to Siena, Italy with young students in many disciplines.

She is excited to engage with her new home for the next year by crafting and hosting after school workshops in fields such as creative writing and theater.

“Both are methods to learn a language that encourages them to get excited about learning English and supplement their work from the school day,” English wrote. She also plans to work on her Korean through her own academic and extracurricular pursuits in the local community.

English’s experience teaching in South Korea this year will allow her to take the next step towards graduate school for a degree in early childhood education.

“[I plan to] add to my knowledge of multicultural education, using all that I will practice while teaching abroad and in my future classroom,” she wrote.

Eric Steinbrook

Biology and English major Eric Steinbrook has been offered an English Teaching Assistantship in Malaysia. As the co-founder of the Amherst Club Soccer team and a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team, Steinbrook has spent a lot of time on fields, yet it’s his time teaching there that he hopes will give him the skills to connect with others in Malaysia.

“I am eager to turn my experience coaching soccer and Ultimate Frisbee into a vehicle to engage students about the English language,” Steinbrook wrote in his application.

It is through playing Ultimate Frisbee at Trinity College with his friend Lau from Malaysia that Steinbrook developed a desire to study the Malaysian language.

“In between points of Ultimate Frisbee, Lau and I would exchange stories about our hometowns,” he wrote.

Through stories and language, Steinbrook hopes to engage with the Malaysian communities.

“I revere the power of language,” he wrote. “I have come to understand that the words we write and speak can dictate our relationships with other people, help build bridges between different places and peoples and, most importantly, help heal invisible wounds. When troubling events evade our understanding, we can harness the power of words.”


Ricky Altieri

A self-proclaimed “cross-cultural humorist,” Ricky Altieri received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 2015-2016 academic year. Through his project “Bridge of Laughter: Towards Cross-Cultural Comedy,” Altieri will spend the next year traveling to Chinese, Spanish and English speaking countries to study the way comedy relates to language and culture.

“Humor has the power to both reflect and reshape a culture’s artistic, social and political values,” Altieri wrote in his application. Altieri wrote that he is enamored with Louis C.K. and interested in the impact of comedy across cultures.

Altieri became interested in pursuing this project after realizing that there is a surprising lack of comedic cultural exchange. Comedy “tends to remain rooted in the culture of origin,” he wrote, although other art forms, such as the haiku, have spread across the globe.

At Amherst, Altieri has been a member of Mr. Gad’s House of Improv, an editor-in-chief of The Indicator and an emcee at Marsh Coffee Haus. He recently completed his honors thesis in philosophy. Altieri became interested in foreign humor after his first year at Amherst, when he studied Chinese satire in Hangzhou through the Amherst China Initiative Fellowship.

Ultimately, Altieri plans to work towards a cross-cultural understanding through humor. “On a more direct level, my goal is to form connections.

David Beron Echavarria

Environmental studies and economics major David Beron Echavarria received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for his project “Rubbish Collectors, Tech Inventors and Policymakers: Exploring Innovation in Waste Management.” He will travel to Argentina, Egypt, Singapore and Sweden to explore the latest waste management innovations in different global communities.

He will study groundbreaking methods of “reducing, collecting, processing, reusing, and recycling waste,” he wrote in his application.

“I want to contribute to finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues,” he wrote. “Especially those that regardless of who and where, affect myriads of people and landscapes around the world.”

Born in Colombia and raised in Ecuador, Beron Echavarria has been interested in studying the ways humans relate to the environment since his childhood. He described humans’ relationship to the natural world as “partly cooperative, partly perverse.”

Beron Echavarria spent his childhood commuting between a cloud forest and the city in which he attended school. Through this experience as well as through his field work in Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam, Beron Echavarria became interested in understanding and mitigating environmental issues.

“[I want to take on] environmental issues that affect people regardless of their geographic, political or socioeconomic standing,” Beron Echavarria wrote.

While Beron Echavarria is eager for this opportunity gain real world experience outside the classroom, he is aware that his future as a policymaker or leader at a social enterprise will require more formal schooling. For this Watson fellowship year and beyond, he will explore and progress within the field of environmental and developmental economics.


Jeffrey Feldman

Economics major Jeffrey Feldman has been offered the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Fellowship for the 2015-2016 academic year in the Energy and Climate Program. The Carnegie fellowship seeks to advance international and cross-cultural cooperation while fostering engagement in international politics and pressing issues within the United States. The Junior Fellows Program grants 12 college graduates the opportunity to conduct real world experience in international affairs.

Feldman applied to the fellowship because of his interest in using policy research to help the fight against climate change. “The current crisis of the oil sector is best understood as the nexus of multiple crises with respect to development, the environment, and international diplomacy,” Feldman wrote in his application.

“Policy is not something that can take place in the fluorescent-lit rooms of an administrative building,” he added. “It must seek to make connections between the technocrat and the citizen.”

Feldman has pursued his interest in environmental policy through internships at the City of Miami Beach firm, the Audubon Society and a socially conscious consulting firm. Ultimately, Feldman hopes that his experience with the Carnegie Fellowship will allow him to pursue a graduate degree in public policy and a career as a researcher and advocate for environmentally conscious public policy.