Fulbright Scholars
Issue   |   Fri, 05/18/2012 - 13:39

Bethany Brown
Anthropology major Bethany Brown was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to travel to Bulgaria.

“I strongly believe that teaching is a way of life; it is not merely a hat I can put on or off—it is part of who I am,” Brown wrote in her application.

She looks forward to building relationships abroad. Brown has previously gained experience in Hangzhou, China, where she taught an elective class at Zhejiang Univ., while interning at an education company preparing students for the American college application process. Every experience improved Brown as a teacher, and Bulgaria will surely not be an exception.

“I genuinely believe I can learn something from anyone and everyone,” Brown admitted in her application. “Perhaps it is selfish, but I love teaching English for all the ways in which I am taught in return.”

She has never been to southeastern Europe and is eager to study the culture and customs of Bulgaria. Brown commented excitedly, “I am especially intrigued [by] the dominant Eastern Orthodoxy and the shift in religious culture with the rise of Islam. There is much about Bulgarian current events that is challenging historical cultural norms.”

Brown learns best “through interacting with people and seeing theories at work,” and she knows that Bulgaria will help teach and prepare her for a career in international education.

Marlis Gnirke
Marlis Gnirke was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Berlin, Germany where she will conduct research on stem cell and regenerative biology. She will be studying under the tutelage of Dr. Gregory Wulczyn at the Institute for Cell Biology and Neurobiology, focusing specifically on the role of microRNA in brain development.

Gnirke hopes to “join the efforts leading towards the development of effective therapies for neurological diseases.” She said in her application: “The societal and economic cost of neurological disease is enormous...[but] the underlying causes remain largely unknown and few effective treatment options exist. However, with rapid scientific and technological advances over the past decade, gene- and/or cell-based therapies are starting to come within reach.”

Gnirke, a fluent German speaker who has visited Germany on eight separate occasions, is confident that her research stay will be fruitful. She emphasized her desire to “give back to [her] host community” by volunteering at a local medical clinic and to “immerse [herself] in the research scene and unique culture...[of] Berlin.”

Upon returning to the U.S., Gnirke hopes to attend either an M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. graduate program, ideally beginning her career at an academic hospital.

Taylor Haney
Fulbright awardee Taylor Davis Haney will spend the next year researching the impact of the Tibetan diaspora on the musical traditions of Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India. He hopes to spend his time there studying the extensive audio/visual archives available at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

Haney intends to split his time between understanding the history of Tibetan music and how it is preserved and documented and doing fieldwork to measure “the fluid realities of Tibetan musical life.” He believes his background in musicology and Buddhist studies gives him ideal preparation to comprehend the key features of Tibet’s music history.
Haney was motivated by his time abroad in India, when news of the Dalai Lama’s retirement from politics fostered in him an anxiety “over the future of an exiled culture and music I had grown to love.” His three-week ethnographic project in Dehradun left him with a love of ethnomusicology and Tibetan culture and a thirst to learn more.

Haney believes his research will be a step towards empowering the exiled population to define themselves through music and creating shared cultural appreciation between India and Tibet. In the future, he plans to go to graduate school in ethnomusicology and hopes to “contribute to the sustained dialogue of ethnomusicology” to “cultivate global awareness, cultural understanding and mutual respect.”

Dana Kaufman
Russian and Music double-major Dana Kaufman was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research and study the ethnomusicology of Estonia and its minority Russian-speaking communities. Kaufman plans to do field research and recordings of different “types of sound” that she will then implement into her own personal composition at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. In her proposal, Kaufman explained that the “types of sounds I plan to record include noise from a factory, birdcalls, traffic and music of street performers.”

While composing in Tallinn, Estonia with the help of English- and Russian-speaking faculty from the departments of Composition and Musicology, Kaufman also plans to enroll in the Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI) 2012 for intensive Estonian language courses.

Kaufman explained that her passion for Eastern European studies “far predates my college years and perhaps was first sparked by stories of my family history in then-Russia.”

As a first-year at Amherst, Kaufman excelled in Professor Jeffers Engelgardt’s “Seminar in the Anthropology of Music: Eastern European Musical Minimalism and the Present Age.” There, she was introduced to the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who greatly inspired her and whose tintinnabular system haunted her when she learned that New York AIDS patients often requested it on their deathbeds. Last year, she composed pieces for a choir as Composer-in-Residence of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Northfield, Ill.

While Kaufman hopes her research in Estonia will allow her compositions to reflect Estonian culture and the Russian presence in Estonia, ultimately her goal is to “genuinely inspire others.”

Benjamin Lin
Thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, Benjamin Lin will spend a year in Istanbul researching the geology and political economy of earthquakes while taking relevant courses at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi. Lin’s goal is to study the geology of Istanbul, Turkey, as well as understand its policy reactions. In Istanbul, Lin plans to do research in the Kandili Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI) and travel around the city to study and photograph sites. He will also continue to study Turkish independently.

Growing up near San Francisco, Calif., Lin was constantly reminded of the dangers of earthquakes and has always been fascinated by the natural world. However, as a geology and economics double major, his academic passions have been torn between the two disciplines, and he most enjoyed classes “where [he] could combine both and think deeply about how human decisions impacted our planet, and vice-versa.” Luckily, in Istanbul, he will be able to do both.

After returning to the U.S., Lin plans to either do economic research at a private firm for several years in preparation for graduate school in economics or go to graduate school in geology. His ultimate goal is to combine the two disciplines.

“I want to build smarter societies that are improving human life but are also aware of our ultimate budget constraint: planet Earth, our one and only ‘pale blue dot’ in the universe, and its precious mix of fortunate coincidences that make life possible,” he said.

Alexa Russo
For her Fulbright project, Alexa Russo will go to Udaipur, Rajasthan in India to work with non-profit organization Seva Mandir. There, she will examine “the impediments that prevent women from participating in microcredit programs” in order to help women in poverty gain access to additional resources.

Russo first realized her rational-scientific way of viewing life was limiting while on a community service trip in Dharamsala, India, where she developed an appreciation for Indian culture and Buddhist philosophy and the central role that they play in certain cultural worldviews. She developed this interest at Amherst by taking relevant coursework and ended up deciding to double major in religion and economics in order to use business as an effective tool for poverty alleviation and social empowerment.

This interdisciplinary background, she believes, is crucial — “not only because development is incomplete if it involves economic improvement without social advancement,” but also because it is often impossible to help people without an understanding of their culture. Thus, her research will try to answer central questions such as whether or not there are differences in background, culture or politics that separate the women who join self-help groups (SHGs) from those who do not.

After her project, Russo intends to join an organization in the U.S. that uses a holistic, community-based approach to business growth and attend business school with a specific focus on development. She aspires to combine her practical knowledge of business and economics and her insights into cultural and religious understanding to form a community-based model that helps increase the financial and social well-being of those in poverty.

Sarah Schear
With the help of a Fulbright Scholarship, Sarah Schear will have the chance to study women’s rights and family planning in Northwest India through a project entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Sex Ratios.”

This will not be Schear’s first stay in India; in fact, she spent the 2010-2011 academic year in Varanasi to study Kathak Dance and Hindi language as well as examine the work of social programs for children with disabilities. In her application, Schear explains that she hopes to contribute something she believes is “notably lacking” to India’s existing demographic statistics on sex ratios and sex-selective abortions: “fieldwork rooted in particular contexts and privileging the views and experiences of families. The central questions of my study, which will be of interest to policy makers, include: How are marriage practices, women’s employment and parental expectations of children affecting sex selection, and are these impacts specific to certain regional or class groups?”

Besides her previous experience in India, the Anthropology major has worked in China and visited Norway, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Professor Ranjana Sheel, who observed Schear during her time in Varanasi, praises her “penchant for details and hard work” which he believes will allow her to “be successful in meeting her objectives and bringing forth much-needed facts.” Ultimately, Schear, a volunteer EMT, plans to earn a joint degree in medicine and public health before becoming a pediatrician or family practitioner. She plans to work primarily with low-income populations while remaining “an advocate for global health equity.”

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