Six USC Dornsife students and alumni have been selected for the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship awarding them for academic achievement and commitment to cultural engagement.
Established in 1946 and sponsored by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright is the largest international fellowship program in the U.S. Each year, about 8,000 grants are given to support independent study, research and teaching in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Just in the past four years, 28 USC Dornsife students have earned this honorable distinction. The 2012-13 Fulbright recipients include:
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
With deep blue eyes and hair the color of chamomile tea, Caitlin Bradbury’s Latino friends where surprised when she began rattling off to them in Spanish.
“Where did you learn to speak Spanish so well?” a friend asked her at a party.
“Cuernavaca,” she replied. “I studied abroad in Mexico and lived with a host family.”
Since then, her tight circle of USC buddies who are all from Mexico call her Cuernavaca. During her junior year in USC Dornsife, Bradbury also took courses in Santiago, Chile, through USC Dornsife’s Overseas Studies program and lived with a local family. She returned from these experiences fluent in Spanish.
“It was sink or swim,” she said.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in international relations with an emphasis in global business from USC Dornsife on May 11, Bradbury is headed to Mexico City, Mexico, as a Fulbright Scholar. For 10 months she will work as an intern at a large company and take courses in finance at a yet-to-be-selected university.
“Mexico is our neighbor and one of our biggest trading partners,” Bradbury said. “It’s important for us as Americans to learn about their culture and build strong bonds. I see it as a land of opportunity.”
An Atlanta, Ga., native, Bradbury was a hospital candy striper and played tennis in high school before becoming a USC Trustee Scholar. She envisions a career at a global corporation based in Latin America, working in international marketing.
She’s not worried about standing out in a different culture.
“In Mexico, I just fit in,” Bradbury, 22, said. “Beyond that, when I lived there before, I began to feel that Mexico was a place I could call home.”
Daniel Paly cracked open a fortune cookie during lunch at USC’s Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Luck will be yours when you least expect it.
A USC Trustee Scholar and most recently a Fulbright Scholar, Paly’s brains and drive make luck seem superfluous. But that’s not how the 22-year-old sees it.
“You always need a little luck,” he said.
Paly, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations in USC Dornsife on May 11, will travel to Brazil in March 2013 and study Brazilian solar energy policy at the University of São Paulo for up to a year.
“I want to make a difference on a systemic level,” Paly said. “I’ve found focus and passion in clean energy.”
In his junior year, Paly studied abroad in São Paulo, Brazil, as a Gold Family Scholar. Then, he investigated issues of power and the environment. A course on biopolitics, ecopolitics and global governance gave him insight about Brazil’s exploitation of its indigenous peoples and natural resources.
“At the same time, I gained a new love and appreciation for Brazilian openness, enthusiasm and ingenuity,” said Paly of Gig Harbor, Wash. “In addition to research and learning, I plan to engage with the community in a two-way exchange of skills and ideas.”
Half Peruvian and half white, Paly speaks fluent Spanish and learned Portuguese while studying in Brazil. Through conversation, presentation and publication, Paly hopes to contribute to the development of solar energy policy in Brazil and raise awareness in local communities of the potential for an alternative renewable energy path.
A Feast of Languages
Speaking only Spanish at home, Nelly Chávez was in the fourth grade when she was finally placed in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class in her Modesto, Calif., school. Understanding little English, she didn’t know to report to a new classroom.
It took a week for anyone to notice Nelly was in the wrong class, and that happened only by accident.
“The teacher I was supposed to have saw me on the playground and asked why I had not been attending class,” Chávez recalled. “The other teacher had just assumed I was one more ESL student added to her roster.”
The experience taught her what a detriment it can be to speak only one language. Learning English connected her to what she calls “the shared human experience.”
As a Fulbright Scholar next academic year, Chávez will teach English to high school students in Madrid, Spain.
“This is why I feel compelled to give back to the world some of the privileges I have been so lucky to receive,” said Chávez, who on May 11 earned her bachelor’s in American studies and ethnicity, and French, with a minor in Latin American studies. “I want to perpetuate the notion of cultural relativity that learning another language can bring.”
Chávez, 23, learned French after spending her Spring 2010 semester in Paris through USC Dornsife’s Overseas Study program. A first-generation high school and college graduate, she eventually wants to become a professor of Latin American history.
“This Fulbright will enrich my prospective career,” she said. “I’ll find out how a variety of students learn while perfecting my pedagogical techniques.”
Reaching a Boiling Point
The most crucial political and environmental issue of the 21st century, some experts say, is the world water crisis. Fresh water is running dry. Already one of five people has no access to safe drinking water.
Nina Gordon-Kirsch, who earned her bachelor’s in environmental studies in USC Dornsife on May 11, wants to help make the water we do have safe to drink. Her Fulbright will take her to Israel, where she will monitor the level of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC) throughout the wastewater treatment process in Be’er Sheva.
EDCs are human-made chemicals — such as those from birth control pills — that go untreated in many plants. Introduced in the U.S. in 1960 and later in other countries, most water treatment plants were not built to filter out oral contraceptives and other chemicals. Gordon-Kirsch will research what kind of effect EDCs have on male and female reproductive systems.
“A high level of hormones in the water is an issue of great importance, specifically in Israel,” Gordon-Kirsch, 23, said.
A country bordered by states in political flux, Israel would likely not be able to turn to its neighbors in the event of a water crisis. Additionally, she said, Israel is highly invested in ensuring future populations of Jews, and therefore is involved in the reproduction rates of its residents. The Israeli government pays for artificial insemination for women under 45 until the patient bears two children.
“I’m hoping the Israeli government uses my data to conduct a study on the health of people who drink water containing hormones,” said Gordon-Kirsch, a Berkeley, Calif., native. “We live on one planet so we all must work together to solve our environmental problems.”
As a Fulbright Scholar, Huibin Amelia Chew will spend nine months in the Philippines collaborating on a research project with General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action (GABRIELA).
The research will serve as a foundation for Chew’s dissertation on the transnational politics of urban women’s organizing. A Ph.D. student in American studies and ethnicity in USC Dornsife, Chew believes U.S. racial justice and women’s rights advocates can learn from GABRIELA.
In the U.S., women in immigrant communities feel they cannot simply call the police in situations of domestic violence, for example.
“They’re reluctant because of issues including deportation,” Chew said. “I’d like to see what we can learn from forms of community networks and support systems in other countries that don’t rely on methods that can be punitive.”
GABRIELA is the largest federation of women’s groups in the Philippines. Founded in 1984, it fights for national self-determination and economic justice, in a country where more than two thirds of its people live on less than $2 a day. An offshoot of GABRIELA is the Gabriela Women’s Party in the Philippines meant to raise low-income women’s concerns in Congress.
Chew has been an activist since focusing on social and women’s studies at Harvard University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2004.
Born in Boston to Chinese parents who had emigrated from Malaysia, Chew grew up in Illinois. After earning her Ph.D. she plans to support community organizing.
“I hope to offer insight on the limitations and possibilities of transnational feminist political solidarity,” Chew said. “And to share how the experiences of urban poor women in the global south can inform feminist organizing in the U.S.”
Warming Up to the Cold War
Sarah Goodrum researches photographs produced in the Cold War period in East Germany. She examines how East German images were exhibited for both political and aesthetic purposes.
"My field, Cold War history, is relatively young at only a little more than 20 years old," Goodrum said in a Skype interview from Berlin, where she has been conducting research on a Borchard Foundation grant for about nine months. “Cold War history is being developed by the minute. So to be on the ground here and have access to the scholars and literature I need is fantastic.”
The Fulbright scholarship will enable Goodrum, a Ph.D. student in art history in USC Dornsife, to continue her research in Germany the next academic year. After the fall of the wall in 1989, marking the Cold War’s end, Berlin became the capital of unified Germany. A city evolving each day, Berlin is where Goodrum’s research calls her to be.
Currently, she mostly works at the Bundesarchiv in Berlin, or federal archives, where documents related to the administration of East Germany under the Socialist Unity Party (SED) are housed. Under the Fulbright, she will be affiliated with the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam, or the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, part of Potsdam University, a 20-mile trip from Berlin.
“I love Berlin. It’s the most amazing place I’ve ever lived,” said Goodrum, a Tennessee native who earned her bachelor’s at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and her master’s at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and has studied abroad in London and Vienna.
“It’s where my work is,” she added. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to stay here and do the kind of project I want to do.”