Politics, anthropology scholars win Fulbrights

Billy Geibel headed to Turkey, Emily Canning to Kyrgyzstan

Billy Geibel M.A. '12 (left) and doctoral candidate Emily Canning

Two Brandeis students will follow their passions far and wide thanks to Fulbright Fellowships they’ve received for the 2012 to 2013 academic year.

Billy Geibel M.A. ’12, who studied politics, will teach English at a university in Turkey, while anthropology doctoral candidate Emily Canning will conduct fieldwork in the schools of Kyrgyzstan to learn how attitudes toward language and ethnicity are negotiated in educational settings there.

Both Geibel and Canning studied previously in the locations where they will be doing their Fulbright-funded work. Geibel was in Turkey as a senior at the University of California at Santa Barbara; Canning has been returning to Kyrgyzstan every year since 2007, her first year at Brandeis.

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that is intended to engender understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Grant recipients are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, and are given the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Geibel says he’s still waiting for information on which school he’ll be placed at in Turkey. His position is referred to as an assistantship, but he expects to be teaching his own courses this year. Approximately 20 hours of his week will be spent in the classroom and another 20 preparing, as well as some time spent creating a sports club that conducts its sessions in English – which was part of Geibel’s Fulbright proposal.

He says the idea stemmed from his college study abroad, when he realized many Turkish students needed help with their English. His friends and roommate spoke little English, but sports were a big part of their culture.

“My roommate was a really big basketball fan and we’d stay up and watch the Lakers game,” Geibel says. “I saw an avenue where a cultural connection could be made to the language.”

Geibel, the son of two teachers, says he’s excited for the opportunity to give back to Turkey, but he hopes to gain more life experience before he chooses to make teaching a career.

When Canning, a linguistic anthropologist, arrived at Brandeis, she wasn’t sure where she’d focus her studies. A fellow student from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, helped her decide and she’s returned each summer since. The central Asian country is a trilingual area, which makes it ideal for her studies.

The area has experienced intense ethnic conflict, which erupted in riots between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks in 2010.

Canning will spend the year as a participant-observer, splitting her time between six yet-to-be-determined schools, examining how the different ethnic groups communicate with one another.

“I’ll be interviewing teachers to get ideas of language attitudes, which unveil attitudes toward ethnic groups,” says Canning, adding that she needed one more year of fieldwork to complete her degree.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

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