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Brandeis achieves six fulbright scholars

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: Features


While many of us are settling into our school year routines and are preoccupied with the thrill of the fall semester, six recent Brandeis graduates are focused on new experiences, far away from campus. Jesse Appell ’12, Daniel Servando Chavez ’10, Olivia Edelman ’12, Skye Fishbein ’12, Kelsey Grab ’12 and Rachel Klein ’12 were all named Fulbright scholars for 2012-2013.

Recipients of the U.S. State Department Fulbright scholarship are given funding to pursue an independent research project, enroll in a graduate program or teach English in an international setting, all of which is demanding but rewarding work.

The application process, unsurprisingly, requires a considerable amount of time and diligence. Grab explained the process as “grueling, but for good reason—it’s a big commitment and a big decision.” Prospective Fulbright scholars, an honor that applies to graduating seniors and recent alumni, typically begin their applications three to six months before the October due date.

Director of Academic Fellowships Meredith Monaghan, who coordinates the Fulbright application process at Brandeis, explained that this year’s Fulbright scholars “were completely committed to the application process. Nobody starts out with a first draft that’s perfect!”

The application deadline becomes difficult for juniors who spend their spring semesters abroad, but Monaghan works hard to collaborate with interested students in this situation. She utilizes the omnipresent technology of our generation wisely, communicating with them via email and Skype.

Like the application process, the selection process is not simple. Each country has a distinct method for choosing its recipients, but there are general similarities in the process. After students submit their applications in October, finalists are chosen by country-specific review panels in late November and into December. Each country has one three-person panel that must choose two finalists for every grant given. These applications are then sent to a separate in-country committee that ultimately decides which students will receive the grants.

Understandably, the Fulbright scholar selection process is extremely selective. All of the applications show standout personality, drive and creativity. “What distinguishes the ones who were chosen,” says Monaghan, “is a total investment in their proposal—in most cases, these people were determined to go to these countries and do these projects with or without a Fulbright.”

This year’s selection of six Brandeis graduates is higher than in years past. The greater number can be explained by several factors. First, there were more applicants this year than in recent years. Brandeis also has a Fulbright Committee made up of faculty and staff who are devoted to providing constructive criticism and feedback to the students throughout the lengthy application process.

Monaghan emphasizes that “Fulbright is a great match for Brandeis students—they have great ideas, they’re willing to work hard, and they have a real interest in engaging with the global community. That’s exactly what Fulbright is looking for.”

This year’s six scholars are pursuing a wide array of exciting adventures. Appell is working on his performance art project titled “Face and Voice: Chinese Traditional XiangSheng Comedy and the Value of Humor” in China. Chavez is at the Royal Institute of Technology in Haninge, Sweden, where he is studying architectural lighting design. Edelman is in Turkey working as an English teaching assistant. Fishbein is conducting a research study titled “A Study of the Synergy between Mycobacterial Infections and HIV” in Capetown, South Africa. Grab is working as an English teaching assistant in Malaysia. Klein is working as an English teaching assistant in Nepal.

Grab, who will leave for Malaysia in January, credits her Fulbright scholarship to the nature of her involvement during her undergraduate career at Brandeis. She cites the skills she obtained during her stint as an Orientation Leader, a Roosevelt Fellow, and an Eco-Rep. Her sociology major and passion to art have also been “invaluable to [her] experiences abroad.” Grab explains that traveling to India, Dublin and Indonesia as a Brandeis student “helped [her] to recognize [her] passion for learning about other cultures and finding ways to relate with art.”

Unlike many scholarships, Fulbright fellowships are more than a venue to seek funding. Monaghan explains that applying for a fellowship doubles as a way to explore what you may want to do further down the road, post-college. She advises, “Being honest with yourself about the answers, and learning how to express them in a compelling way, are valuable skills that will serve you well, wherever you go in life.”

Grab recommends taking advantage of fellowship and study abroad opportunities. “And with them,” she says “go as far away from home as possible. Only then will you recognize the value of the Brandeis community and also your own incredible ability to thrive under the most challenging of circumstances.”