|Davidson Enjoys a Spring Full of Fulbrights!
May 09, 2011
By Kelly Beggs
A record-breaking four members of the Class of 2011 have received prestigious Fulbright Fellowships to study and teach in diverse international locales after graduation .
The Fulbright Fellowship
Fulbright student grants are bestowed upon undergraduate and graduate students for study, teaching, and research abroad. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the program's intention is to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."
Pallavi Penumetcha '11
| Pallavi Penumetcha '11
Pallavi Penumetcha is one of two Davidson seniors who will spend a year abroad for study and research on a full grant. The other is Mary Gearing ‘11 (For information on Gearing's Fulbright grant, click here). Penumetcha will go to Gaborone, Botswana, to do research for the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership.
The Atlanta native has scientific experience specific to Africa from spending a semester of her junior year studying ecology in Kenya. However, her Fulbright will allow her to do research closer to her academic specialty. "When I went abroad with the School for Field Studies, that was large-scale biology. I wanted to go back to Africa, but to study something molecular," she said.
Her research at Davidson has focused on small biology, and her senior thesis concerned in-depth computational biology. Following her Fulbright year, she plans to go to graduate school to get a Ph. D. in molecular biology.
Penumetcha will be addressing the HIV/AIDS problem in an area severely affected by the disease. Botswana has the second highest rate of infection in the world. She explained, "I'll try to find a better way to screen for mutations in the integrase protein."
Integrase is an enzyme produced by HIV that enables its genetic material to be integrated into the DNA of the infected cell. Penumetcha said, "What I'm excited about is that I'll have 10 months to work on this single project."
In addition to her research, Penumetcha will work at the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Center of Excellence, the largest pediatric HIV clinic in the world.
Maddie Koch '11
| Maddie Koch '11
Morocco's mixture of French, Modern Standard Arabic, Moroccan Colloquial Arabic, Berber and Tamil languages would seem daunting to some, but for a French major with a minor in Arabic, like Maddie Koch, Morocco is quite possibly the most attractive country in the world.
The country's diversity of language and culture compelled Koch to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. She said, "It's great for me because it's a mix of different languages. To have a conversation with one person in English, French, and Arabic, and for that to be completely normal, is fascinating."
Koch has first-hand knowledge of Morocco from spending the summer of 2009 studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco, on a Dean Rusk International Studies Program Grant. "It's such a different culture than the U.S. At first it was a big culture shock, but at the end of the program I didn't want to leave," she said. "Since then, every time I've had the chance to choose an academic topic, it has concerned Morocco."
Koch has been studying language since middle school and chose Davidson largely for its strong French department. She wanted to add a non-romance language to her repertoire during her undergraduate years, and the establishment of Davidson's Arabic program luckily began during her first year. "When I applied and was accepted I didn't know that there was going to be Arabic, but the program has been growing exponentially since I started," she said.
The cultural insights that come with studying foreign language are what draw Koch to the subject. "It's just fun to be able to read a newspaper in another language, and it's not just language-it's learning the culture," she said. "You learn things through learning the language that you wouldn't learn otherwise."
For her English Teaching Assistantship, she will spend 10 to 15 hours per week teaching English in a university setting. She might also expand her senior thesis research on youth political participation in Morocco.
She said, "It's great that I have an English teaching grant because I'll be inserted in a university culture immediately. The ETA can become part of my research."
Malia Wong '11
| Malia Wong '11
A Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Sri Lanka will not be Malia Wong's first experience teaching English to Tamil-speaking people. Wong explained, "I taught my host sisters English when I was in India, and I really liked it."
The senior psychology major and economics minor spent a semester of her junior year in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located in the southernmost tip of the country. "Not many people speak English there," she said. "We took classes in Tamil every day so that we could get around."
Wong's experience abroad in India is part of what inspired her to apply for a Fulbright ETA. Her familiarity with the Tamil language gave her a competitive edge in the Fulbright application pool for the ETA in Sri Lanka, where a portion of the population speaks Tamil. "It was recommended that you have knowledge of Tamil or Singhalese," she explained. "I speak conversational Tamil, and only 10-20 percent of the country speaks Tamil. The rest of the country speaks Sinhalese."
The dominant language spoken will depend on where in Sri Lanka Wong is placed, but seeing an unfamiliar culture is part of what excites her about the Fulbright. She said, "I'm looking forward to getting more global experience and to seeing a different part of south Asia."
Though Wong envisions her Fulbright as a time for personal development between the end of her academic studies and the start of her professional life, she hopes that the global experience will be relevant in her future career. She said, "I want to get into marketing for a firm that is globally known with an international focus."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.