Four recent graduates receive Fulbright grants

Research includes Holocaust rescue in Switzerland, glassblowing in Sweden, orangutans in Indonesia and English in the Middle East

Left to right: Samantha Lakin, Steven Patriarco, Julian Olidort

You get a plane ticket and living expenses for a year. Your side of the deal is to continue researching what you’re passionate about. Sound like you’ve hit the jackpot? For four Brandeis Fulbright Grant winners, the answer is “yes.”

Samantha Lakin ’08 hopes to become an expert in the field of Holocaust rescue and resistance in Switzerland. Steven Patriarco ’08 plans to analyze how conservation education programs can aid rural communities in Indonesia — and also help save the orangutan population. Claire Cooper '11 will teach English in Oman. Julian Olidort ’11 will examine the rise and fall of the glass industry in Sweden and explore the function of artists in glass factories in the first half of the 20th century; he also plans to pick up a few glass blowing tips along the way.

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Fulbright applications for 2012

Campus application deadline for the Fulbright U.S. student program is Sept 13, 2011.

Before beginning your  online application, read more about the process:

Current or past undergraduates apply here.

Current or past graduate students apply here.

The Fulbright U.S. student program enables recent graduates and graduate students who do not hold a terminal degree in their field to conduct research and study abroad or to work as English teachers for
an academic year.
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The Fulbright grant program was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress to foster understanding between the people of the United States and other countries, to exchange ideas and to help find solutions to shared international concerns.

According to the Institute of International Education, a collaborator in the Fulbright Program, the grants are an important element of America’s bilateral relationships, as U.S. and foreign governments jointly set priorities for the exchanges. While most of the funding is provided by the United States, partner governments, corporations, foundations and academic institutions also provide support.

Applicants design their own programs, which may include university coursework, independent research, professional training in the arts and other fields or a combination.

Meredith Monaghan, the director of Academic Fellowships at Brandeis, says that the selection process begins with publicizing the opportunity and guiding those interested through the application process, which includes looking over drafts of the personal statement and the project proposal and helping applicants obtain an affiliation in the sponsoring country.

A screening committee of faculty and staff then reviews and rates all of the applications to ensure that they have the right components and are cogent and compelling. Applications are shipped off to the Fulbright office, and the waiting begins.

“The students who have won over the years have not necessarily been ranked the highest by the Brandeis committee in a given year,” says Monaghan. “The Fulbright is all about the project proposal. Is it feasible? Is it exciting? Original? Will the student be able to carry it out over an academic year? Do they have good support in the country?”

This year 15 Brandeis students and alumni applied; four won awards.

Holocaust rescue and resistance

Samantha Lakin’s project is titled "The Fate of Jewish Children Smuggled Into Switzerland During the Holocaust."

Lakin will be researching the rescue of Jewish children and other refugees who escaped the Nazi regime by crossing the Swiss border during World War ll. The project will combine archival research and personal interviews with individuals who were rescued and smuggled into Switzerland.

“I hope to be able to contribute, in some small way, to how academics and the general population understand global crises and persecution, so individual leaders and nations will treat people with respect in the future,” Lakin says. “Researching the rescue of Jewish children may provide insight for others today who are in comparable situations.”

Lakin says that the efforts of rescuers who participated in resistance efforts illuminate one of the darkest periods of European history; she hopes that “their moral example should guide us through the 21st century.”

Lakin is currently a learning and resource specialist at the Kellman Brown Academy in Vorhees, N.J.

The marriage of art and industry through glass

Julian Olidort has been fascinated with glassblowing since his first attempt at age 11. His love of the art and industry has gained momentum over the years and now, as a Fulbright Scholar, Olidort will explore Sweden’s glass sector in the early 20th century.

Olidort’s project is titled “The Socioeconomics of Swedish Glass.”

Among the questions that he plans to answer are: What triggered the acceptance of art in the factory, how did this stimulate business and, if this was indeed a successful driver of business, why did so many glass factories fail?

His research will be based in the Växjö Glass Museum, in Växjö, Sweden, where he will have access to their archives as well as glass archives of individual factories in neighboring towns.

Saving tropical forests and orangutans

Steven Patriarco says he sees the sustainable management of tropical forests as perhaps the greatest example of operating at the interface of human needs, the environment and the economy. He’ll head to Indonesia to analyze how conservation education programs can help rural communities sustainably manage their natural resources. 

Patriarco’s project is “Conserving the Orangutan: The Role of Environmental Education Programs in West Kalimantan.”

The primary objective of his research is to understand whether conservation education programs are effective, why they may or may not be successful within individual villages and how education programs may best be designed to address local needs and cultural values of populations near the orangutan habitat in West Kalimantan.

Patriarco says that he will use his background in public environmental education, sustainable agriculture and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies to help Yayasan Palung, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) empower local communities and build the capacity of local institutional partners.

Patriarco is currently the GIS director for Northeast States Emergency Consortium, a non-profit organization funded by U.S. Homeland Security that deals with natural and man-made disasters.

Teaching English in the Middle East

Claire Cooper was awarded an English Teaching Assistantship in Oman. She will work part time as an assistant and hopes to spend her remaining time working as a speaking partner for students and developing a research project of her own, most likely with a focus on migration.

Cooper says she chose to pursue a grant in the Gulf region because she finds the history and culture of the area fascinating and that Gulf state relations with the US have been critical to US policy in the region.

Monaghan says the Fulbright grant is known as one of the most democratic of prestigious scholarships because it’s not about grade point average or having distinguished professors write letters of recommendation. It’s all about having a great project.

Those interested can apply for a Fulbright grant as early as the fall of their senior year of college. While there is no age limit, the opportunity ends once someone has earned a Ph.D.

“We all try to emphasize the benefits of the application process regardless of the outcome,” says Monaghan. “Even if the Fulbright doesn’t work out for them it helps them map out other possibilities at the same time.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs, Research

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