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U. of I. students, recent graduates win Fulbright awards

5/30/2012 | Madeline Ley, News Bureau intern | 217-333-1085;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois students and recent graduates will be spending the 2012-13 academic year overseas pursuing fully funded research, studies or English teaching under Fulbright grants.

The goal of the Fulbright program, administered by the U.S. Department of State, is to promote cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding through students’ engagement in their host communities. The Fulbright program annually awards 1,700 academic-year grants to U.S. graduating college seniors, recent alumni, and current master’s and doctoral students.

“The 2012-13 academic year will find University of Illinois Fulbright grantees on five continents sharing their Illinois experiences with, and learning from, their host cultures,” said David Schug, the Fulbright campus adviser and co-director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois.

U. of I. student winners (and alternates):

Rosemary Admiral, of Clinton, Wash., has been offered a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Morocco. A doctoral candidate in history, Admiral plans to continue her dissertation research, investigating how women engaged with Islamic law in 14th- and 15th-century Morocco. A former Dominican Republic Peace Corps volunteer with an undergraduate degree in computer science and Spanish, Admiral has switched her focus to studies in the Middle East. She plans a career as a professor of Middle Eastern history.

Jovana Babovic, of Rochester, Minn., is set to begin her Fulbright year in Serbia, furthering her dissertation research on the relationship of the state and society to urban culture in interwar Belgrade. Babovic is a doctoral candidate in modern European history with a focus on Eastern Europe, Russia and urban history. She was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and began formally studying the region as a master’s student in European studies at New York University. She earned a second master’s degree in Central European history from Central European University in Hungary prior to beginning her doctoral studies at Illinois. She intends to pursue a career as a professor of history.

Tiffanie Bui, of Urbana, has earned one of two Fulbright English teaching assistantships to Norway. She will be working with students at a high school and a university, serving as a resource person in conversation and writing groups and giving talks related to American studies. She emigrated with her family from Vietnam at an early age. After transferring with an associate degree from Parkland College, Bui earned a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in library and information science at Illinois. She plans a career as a school librarian or language arts teacher.

Dana Fager, of Oak Park, Ill., a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, will investigate changes in Japanese students studying abroad and potentially corresponding changes in hiring practices in Japan. Fager studied abroad for a year as an undergraduate at Konan University through the Year-in-Japan Program. She also was awarded Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State for intensive Japanese study in the summers of 2011 and 2012. She intends to continue her work strengthening U.S.-Japan relations by advocating for intercultural exchanges.

Jeanine (Yana) Genchanok, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., was named an alternate Fulbright candidate to work in Tanzania with a local nongovernmental organization assessing water quality, sanitation and distribution locations in the Uru East region of the nation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Illinois. She has volunteered with Engineers Without Borders, Crisis Nursery and the Oglala Lakota Research project, as well as worked with the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems at the U. of I.. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in environmental engineering with a career focus on international development.

Matthew Grobis, of Vernon Hills, Ill., will be studying in Germany as a Fulbright scholar this upcoming academic year. Grobis graduated as a James Scholar honors student with a bachelor’s degree in integrative biology. His Fulbright proposal is to research the link between animal personality and social learning in the great tit, a bird of the Paridae family at Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. He intends to pursue a career as a professor of biology.

Scott Harrison, of Rutherford, N.J., was named an alternate for a Fulbright award to Germany for the academic year 2012-13. A doctoral candidate in history at Illinois, Harrison is focusing his work on the history of gender and sexuality in modern European history. After graduating from Marist College with a degree in history and education, Harrison taught high school history for a year and worked as a research assistant at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. He plans to become a university history professor.

Rosalie Ierardi, of Urbana,  earned a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences at Illinois and will carry out her Fulbright project in Nepal studying the effects of heat stress on buffalo. Working with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service, a nonprofit agency in Pokhara, Nepal, Ierardi will work to better understand what farmers can do to mitigate the impact of seasonal changes on buffalo milk production. Ierardi earned her associate degree at Parkland College. She plans to pursue a career in production animal medicine with a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Joseph Johnson, of Chicago, has been named an alternate for a Fulbright Grant to study in France. A French major and gender and women’s studies minor, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in May 2012. His Fulbright proposal is to spend a year at the Ecole Nationale des Chartes, researching manuscript copies of “Roman de Renart,” a medieval French fable. He studied abroad for a year in Paris at Sciences Po, a prestigious French school. He plans a career as a professor of French.

Evan Murphy, of Montague, Mich., has been offered a Fulbright grant to Egypt. In Egypt, Evan proposes to further his dissertation research examining how agricultural science became an authoritative source of agrarian knowledge in Egypt during the British occupation. Evan began his doctoral studies in history at Illinois in 2009 after earning a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in Near Eastern studies. He plans to use his experience in Egypt as a professor specializing in modern Middle Eastern social and cultural history.

Mark O’Donnell, of Roscoe, Ill., will be traveling to Australia as a Fulbright scholar to enroll in an applied economics graduate program at Australian National University, researching how effective the Australian government agency “Infrastructure Australia” has been in attracting private sector investment. O’Donnell earned his bachelor’s degree in finance at Illinois in 2004 and has spent the past four years working in transportation planning for Metra in Chicago and volunteering as a tutor for elementary school students through the Chicago Lights Organization. He plans to use the infrastructure financing knowledge gained in Australia to help address infrastructure funding issues faced by the U.S.

Agata Parfieniuk, of Niles, Ill., will use her Fulbright grant to work with scientists at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, Brazil, who are conducting research on genes in the pituitary gland to better understand the origin of hormone disorders. Parfieniuk earned a bachelor’s degree at Illinois in molecular and cellular biology. Her interest in endocrinology developed while working in professor Lori Raetzman’s laboratory for three years at Illinois. Parfieniuk plans to pursue an advanced degree in medicine or biology upon her return to the U.S.

Niru Pradhan, of Bolingbrook, Ill., will use her Fulbright grant to India to chronicle the work of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, an organization that delivers lunches to more than a million children every school day. She will examine the residual effects of decentralized development on women’s empowerment in three rural communities in northern India. Niru earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Illinois, and intends to attend graduate school in the field of international development.

Amanda Robinson, of Cullom, Ill., has been named an alternate Fulbright candidate to New Zealand. Her project seeks to study alternative ways to band and identify an endangered penguin species habituating on the Banks Peninsula of New Zealand. Amanda received her undergraduate degrees from Illinois in biology and Russian language and literatures. Her work in conservation includes lab experience with professor Andrew Suarez and the Illinois Natural History Survey. She hopes to continue with advanced degrees in conservation biology.

Ryan Schmidt, of Park Ridge, Ill., will be teaching English to high school students in South Korea with a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and concentration in secondary education. He has student-taught at several middle and high schools in the area and recently completed a semester of student teaching at Elk Grove High School. He completed a capstone research seminar in the Illinois history department and has presented his work on racial integration and the civil rights movement. Schmidt plans a career teaching high school history and working to eliminate educational inequity in the U.S.

Tsz Wai (Sammi) Wong, of Woodridge, Ill., was named an alternate for an English Teaching Assistantship to Turkey for the 2012-13 academic year. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French and international studies from Illinois and she plays violin with the Balkan Music Ensemble. She developed her interest in teaching English as a foreign language through her volunteer work with the Intensive English Institute on campus. She intends to work toward a career with the federal government.

Alternates may receive awards if other designees decline the grant or additional funds are made available. The grants generally provide full funding for round-trip travel, room and board, health insurance, and full or partial tuition for awardees to pursue opportunities in more than 135 nations. Candidates from all disciplines design and outline their individual overseas projects as part of their application. Additionally, pre-arranged Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships are available to more than 65 nations.

“We’re thrilled by the richness and creativity of the projects that our Fulbright awardees will pursue: From studies of heat stress on buffalo in Nepal to teaching English in Norway, our Illinois students can really make a difference,” said Laura Hastings, also a co-director of the scholarships program at Illinois.

The National and International Scholarships Program is accepting Fulbright applications from U. of I. students and alumni for the 2013-2014 year. More information is available by contacting
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