USC Dornsife’s 2011 Fulbright recipients prepare for their international research and teaching assistantships.By Ambrosia Viramontes-Brody
June 1, 2011
This year, seven of the 10 USC students and alumni awarded Fulbright Fellowships are from the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. They will teach English, conduct research and study in various parts of the world.
Tiffany Yang ’11, who received a bachelor’s in comparative literature and a minor in Spanish, was awarded an English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright to South Korea.
The aspiring public interest lawyer first set her eyes on the Fulbright award during her senior year of high school. The grant encapsulated her ideal post-graduation dreams: working abroad, gaining cross-cultural insight, continuing to develop her foreign language skills and interacting with top scholars.
“As someone who hopes to work in multiple languages and with multiple cultures, the Fulbright grant will allow me to become both fluent in Korean and more flexible at cross-cultural interactions,” Yang said. “I’ll become more adept at providing aid and services to anyone who may need them.”
In USC Dornsife, Yang pursued her career goal by studying literature, foreign languages and cultures while developing the required analysis skills. Yang experienced the judicial process firsthand through her public service at the JusticeCorps resource center in Los Angeles where she worked one-on-one with English- and Spanish-speaking litigants unable to afford legal representation. There, she observed the obstacles non-native speakers encounter and sought to make the process easier.
“I believe that access to justice should always be equal, despite the realities of financial and even cultural obstacles,” Yang said.
For the next 13 months Yang will teach English and lead creative writing workshops. After her Fulbright year, she plans to attend law school.
During her college career Yang interacted with many USC Dornsife faculty members who influenced her, including Roberto Díaz, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and comparative literature, and Julie Nack Ngue, assistant professor (teaching) of French.
Near confrontations with polar bears and icy temperatures did not dissuade Cara Magnabosco ’11 from returning to the Svalbard Islands, located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole.
In fact, those experiences kept her coming back.
In August, the USC alumna who graduated with a bachelor’s in biochemistry from USC Dornsife and a minor in entrepreneurship from the USC Marshall School of Business will return to her old research stomping grounds.
The small coal mining community initially sparked her interest while she was conducting fieldwork there last summer through a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant.
In the coming year, she will research the carbon capture and storage facility at the University Centre in Svalbard. The project aims to reduce Svalbard’s carbon emissions and carbon footprint by creating a landfill for carbon emissions. The carbon produced through burning coal is injected into the subsurface near Longyearbyen.
“I think it is important that we clean up our act,” she said. “A lot of research right now is targeted at biofuels or implementing alternative energy sources, initiatives that take such a long time to be put into action. I want to work on something that can be implemented in the meantime.”
The Indiana native realized her passion for science and the environment her first year at USC Dornsife. An internship in the lab of Kenneth Nealson, Wrigley Chair of Geobiology, and professor of earth sciences and biological sciences, sparked her interest in the science behind what was being applied. She promptly switched from an engineering major to biochemistry.
She credits Douglas Capone, William and Julie Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies, and professor and chair of biological sciences, as the biggest influence on her scientific research. On the business side, Patrick Henry, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall, helped her fuse her passion for science, environmental change and business.
“I want to work on projects or eventually begin a company that focuses on creating environmental technology to reduce our global impact on the Earth and help slow down human climate change,” she said.
Emily Kamen ’11,whograduated with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in natural sciences, initially had no intention to study medicine.
That all changed when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Kamen spent the summer after her freshman year supporting her dad in various ways from driving him to chemotherapy to lifting his spirits when he was down.
Her passion for science and her love of taking care of people resulted in Kamen declaring a major in psychology and a minor in natural science.
“I realized how much I miss science,” she said. “It’s what I’m really good at and it’s what I love.”
In July, Kamen will leave her father’s house in San Francisco, Calif., for South Korea. She has been looking forward to international study since Professor of Psychology Jo Ann Farver encouraged her and her classmates to travel overseas.
In South Korea, she will spend a year teaching English and will examine how Eastern and traditional practices are combined with Western practices. Outside of the classroom, she plans to volunteer at a clinic and observe traditional practitioners.
“One of my main interests in Eastern medicine is that it places as much emphasis on mental and physical health as it does on spiritual,” she said. “I think those three aspects — mental, physical and spiritual — need to be combined in any field of medicine.”
Once back home she plans to attend medical school and perhaps become a cardiologist or work in an emergency room. Although Kamen is keeping her options open, she is firm on providing patients a high level of care.
“I really believe that we are getting so far into scientific advancements and research that we are moving further from seeing each individual as a whole person,” she said. “I think it is important to integrate the three aspects into treatment and if I do this on a grand scale or in my own office then maybe I will be able to provide better care for my patients.”
For Michelle Damian ’11, spending her Fulbright year in Japan is akin to going home.
Her history with the island nation began her junior year of high school. After spending six weeks exploring Japan under the supervision of a host family, the teen was taken by the land of the rising sun.
“Japan has been a big part of my life,” said Damian, a doctoral student in history. “I just fell in love with it and decided to go back there when I could read and speak the language.”
True to her word, Damian added Japanese to her language repertoire and returned to Japan after earning a bachelor’s in Asian studies from University of California, Berkeley. She left Japan after seven years to earn a master’s in maritime archeology from East Carolina University.
USC Dornsife’s pre-modern Japan program drew her to California. She also sought the opportunity to work with Joan Piggott, Gordon L. MacDonald Chair in History and professor of history.
“I wanted to make sure that I was at a university that would be receptive to my bringing archeology into a history program and professor Piggot was very supportive of that,” Damian said. “My overall goal is to teach and do research about pre-modern Japan and the maritime history and archeology.”
In Japan, Damian will examine the island and coastal communities of the Seto Inland Sea to study the developing maritime cultural landscape during the Muromachi era. She will spend time at archeological sites, archival repositories and possibly dive to observe shipwrecks for her research.
Damian also works closely with Emeritus Professor of History John Wills and Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures David Bialock.
Lyndsey Hoh ’11 graduated from the USC Thornton School of Music with a bachelor’s in performance and a minor in philosophy from USC Dornsife. Hoh will study at the University of Helsinki in Finland where she will research the symbology and semiotics of music inspired by Kalevala, a 19th-century work of epic poetry.
Two USC Dornsife alumni have also been named Fulbright recipients:
Lydia Green earned a bachelor’s in linguistics in 2009. She received a Fulbright to study in the United Kingdom. She is currently in Australia at the University of Newcastle pursuing a doctorate in linguistics. Green will also pursue a master’s degree in language documentation and description at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies as preparation for her doctoral research in endangered languages. As part of her studies, she will research language loss in the endangered-language community of Logba, Ghana. In 2008, Green traveled to a remote part of Alaska to study the native language of Central Alaskan Yup’ik.
In 2007, Gary Lee graduated with a bachelor’s in political science and a minor in political organizing in the digital age. Lee joined Obama for America in April 2007, a month before graduating. For the past 2 1/2 years, he has worked for President Barack Obama as a White House liaison. He will leave his position at the White House to conduct research in Korea as part of his Fulbright. Lee will examine the Korean legislature’s role in the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreements. At USC Dornsife, he was active in various areas of campus life including serving as president of the Korean Student Association, board member of the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly and a mentor for USC Leadership Education and Development.