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U.S. Fulbright Unknown

Working on a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship application? Read about current fellow Megan Banick.

December 21, 2012

Megan Banick’s Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship placement is in the Guatemalan Ministry of Education as an Educational Researcher consulting on various education topics such as intercultural-bilingual education quality, civic education through student government, and international standardized testing. She is also leading a project for the Ministry on academic disinterest and cultural perceptions in Guatemala. Previously interning at a local NGO, she supported an agriculture and microbusiness training program in the same rural area where her current work will take place. Further, as an observer of a local mayoral candidate’s campaign, she gained a stronger understanding of the complex challenges facing democracy and public participation in rural, indigenous areas.

Ms. Banick has experience in preschool through adult education, having spent time working with bilingual education in Spain, vocational training in Chile, and immigrant/refugee education in the United States. Having recently completed an MA in International Development at the University of Denver, her research interests include education reform and political economic development in Latin America. She received her BS in Modern Languages and Marketing Communications from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. As a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow, she hopes to further her understanding of institution building in a development context, how to support large-scale educational reform, and methods for integrating marginalized populations into public life.

Interested in pursuing a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship or want to learn more? Click here and  here. Also, be sure to sign up for the last two Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship webinars.

Applications will be accepted from November 1, 2012 – February 1, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

U.S. Fulbright

Meet the 2013 Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors!

December 17, 2012











On Tuesday, December 11, 21 newly-selected 2013 Fulbright U.S. Student Program Alumni Ambassadors met in Washington, DC to receive training on how to promote and recruit for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Staff members from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Institute of International Education (IIE), along with previous Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors, shared tips on giving an effective presentation and emphasized the unique, important role that Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors play in inspiring diverse students, Fulbright Program Advisers, college administrators – and anyone interested in the program – to learn more about it and the power of educational and cultural exchange.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassador Program was established in 2008 to identify, train and engage a select group of approximately 15-25 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni to serve as representatives, recruiters and spokespersons for the Fulbright Program. They are selected annually through recommendations from Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassy staff, area managers, the Fulbright Student Program Outreach Division and approved by the Fulbright Program’s sponsor, ECA. Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors come from an array of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, states, fields of study, institutions and have participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in all world areas.

Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors represent the program’s rich diversity and play a key role in increasing knowledge about Fulbright opportunities. They provide testimonials about their Fulbright experiences at conferences and campus presentations, and offer application tips in written articles, video and podcast interviews, webinars and at special events throughout the United States. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program relies on the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors to share with potential applicants what the Fulbright experience is really like and how to successfully address the challenges of living abroad while meeting the Fulbright Program’s ultimate goal – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Here’s a preview of the 2013 Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors:

Stephanie Aigner
Current City: Jersey City, New Jersey
Undergraduate Institution: Seton Hall University
Fulbright ETA – Greece, 2010-2011

Marvin Alfaro
Current City: New York, New York
Undergraduate Institution: University of Miami
Fulbright CSIRO Postgraduate Scholarship – Australia, 2011-2012

April Conway
Current City: Athens, Georgia
Undergraduate Institution: University of Georgia
Fulbright U.S. Student in Ecology – Sierra Leone, 2010-2011

Emma Din
Current City: Washington, DC
Undergraduate Institution: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Fulbright ETA – Colombia, 2011-2012

Justin Dunnavant
Current City: Gainesville, Florida
Undergraduate Institution: Howard University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Archeology – Jamaica, 2009-2010

Jared Finkelstein
Current City: Lubbock, Texas
Undergraduate Institution: Farmingdale State College
Fulbright U.S. Student in Construction Management Engineering Technology – Italy, 2010-2011

Esther Francis
Current City: Independence, Missouri
Undergraduate Institution: Park University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Business – Mexico, 2011-2012

Cristina Gauthier
Current City: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Undergraduate Institution: Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico
Fulbright U.S. Student in Environmental Studies – Brazil, 2010-2011

Nancy Guevara
Current City: Urbana, Illinois
Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Fulbright U.S. Student in Design – Mexico, 2011-2012

Zigfried Hampel-Arias
Current City: Madison, Wisconsin
Undergraduate Institution: Rice University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Physics – Argentina, 2009-2010

Kaitlen Howell
Current City: Nashville, Tennessee
Undergraduate Institution: Middle Tennessee State University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Medical Science – Germany, 2010-2011

Heather Michelle Hunt
Current City: Dallas, Texas
Undergraduate Institution: Southern Methodist University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Arabic Language and Literature – Egypt, 2011-2012

Sarah Lima
Current City: Cincinnati, Ohio
Undergraduate Institution: At-Large
Fulbright U.S. Student in Archeology – Albania, 2011-2012

Todd McKay
Current City: Salt Lake City, Utah
Undergraduate Institution: University of Utah
Fulbright ETA – Bangladesh, 2011-2012

Shadea Mitchell
Current City: Bloomington, Indiana
Undergraduate Institution: University of Louisville
Fulbright ETA – Jordan, 2010-2011

Deeneaus Polk
Current City: Pascagoula, Mississippi
Undergraduate Institution: University of Mississippi
Fulbright ETA – Germany, 2011-2012

Rachel Reetzke
Current City: Austin, Texas
Undergraduate Institution: Western Kentucky University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Public Health – China, 2011-2012

Jonathan Remple
Current City: San Francisco, California
Undergraduate Institution: Boston University
Fulbright ETA – Rwanda, 2010-2011

Marisa A. Rinkus
Current City: Lansing, Michigan
Undergraduate Institution: Purdue University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Environmental Studies – Brazil, 2010-2011

Munir Sayegh
Current City: Indianapolis, Indiana
Undergraduate Institution: St. Ambrose University
Fulbright U.S. Student in Design – Egypt, 2011-2012

Heather Yocum
Current City: Longmont, Colorado
Undergraduate Institution: University of Denver
Fulbright U.S. Student in Anthropology – Malawi, 2011-2012

Photo: (Back row, left to right) Antonio Tahhan (2012), Jonathan Remple, Munir Sayegh, Marisa Rinkus, Nancy Guevara, Cristina Gauthier, Zigfried Hampel-Arias, April Conway, Deeneaus Polk, Tony Claudino (IIE); (second row, left to right) Esther Francis, Sarah Lima, Justin Dunnavant, Heather Yocum, Marvin Alfaro, Rachel Reetzke, Todd McKay, Stephanie Aigner, Kaitlen Howell, Emma Din, Shadea Mitchell; (front row, left to right) Schuyler Allen (IIE), Lee Rivers (IIE), BJ McDuffie (ECA), Jamie Lawrence (ECA), Meg Neff (ECA; (not pictured), Mary Kirk (ECA), David Levin (ECA), Betsy Glans (IIE) and Walter Jackson (IIE)

U.S. Fulbright

Want to learn more about some of this year’s Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship recipients? Read about Andrew Tarter.

December 5, 2012

Andrew Tarter’s professional placement is in the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation, within the government of Haiti. Born and raised in Haiti, Mr. Tarter has always maintained a keen interest in all things Haitian. His master’s research, which was fully funded through two U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships in Haitian Creole (2008-2010), culminated in an anthropological outcome-evaluation of Haiti’s largest tree-planting project. Mr. Tarter is currently finishing a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Florida, where he has taught undergraduate courses for the Department of Anthropology as well as the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. His Ph.D. coursework has been fully funded through the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship (2010-2015). Tarter’s dissertation research, which focuses on Haitian farmers who have independently elected to grow trees as a cash-crop, has been jointly-funded by both the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. For his Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, Mr. Tarter is currently working with the governmental unit that coordinates the activities of NGOs operating in Haiti, helping to implement policies for NGO registration, and monitoring and evaluation. These measures will help ensure that the activities of NGOs meet the existing laws, policies, priorities and best-practices of the democratically-elected Haitian Government as it takes steps to strengthen its autonomy.

Interested in pursuing a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship or want to learn more? Click here and  here. Also, be sure to sign up for one of the upcoming Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship webinars.

Applications will be accepted from November 1, 2012 – February 1, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

U.S. Fulbright

The Unexpected Journey, By Mildred Gonzalez, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain

November 21, 2012

It was only spring of my senior year at Lafayette College, but I could already feel the sun beating down my neck, my best friend and I quickly regretted the trip to check our mailboxes, but chatted as we walked. I was happy to have accepted a job offer, but told my friend that a part of me still felt unsettled about life after graduation. After all, we were about to say goodbye to our home for the past four years. This was as obvious and as painful as the sun stinging our eyes, but neither of us spoke about it. When we arrived at our mailboxes, I reached into mine and unexpectedly discovered a thin manila envelope. It contained a letter congratulating me on being offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Madrid, Spain.

If someone came up to me a few years ago and told me that I would one day become a Fulbrighter, I would have laughed. The Fulbright Program was something that I had heard about in presentations, but not something I imagined myself doing. The first time I heard about the program, I was attending a Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) college retreat. Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors talked about their overseas experiences and the application process. Liking what I heard, I decided to apply, never thinking that I would be awarded a grant.

I am grateful to have had an opportunity to participate in the Fulbright Program. It is not every day that someone has the chance to work with students in another country. Through my assistant teaching experiences, my students’ perspectives on the United States changed as well as my own. My presence in the classroom allowed my students to experience another culture, as I made sure to give presentations on American holidays and traditions. While my students learned about Thanksgiving, I learned about Spanish traditions. I started a pen pal program between my students in Spain and a group in Texas. This project not only helped with students’ language acquisition, it also created a format for cultural exchange. Through my Fulbright experiences, I learned that I do not want to be just a teacher; I also want to be a student. Living in Spain created a desire within me to learn about other cultures and gain different perspectives.

Looking back, if I hadn’t received a Fulbright grant, I still wouldn’t have regretted applying. The application was hard work, but putting it together has prepared me for applying to other competitive programs I might pursue in the future.

If I could give future applicants any advice, it would be the following: Don’t just know why you want to receive a Fulbright grant, know what you can do in your selected country. It is important to research the country in which you would like to carry out your grant. Remember that the Fulbright Program is about cultural exchange. It is not just about how you will change as a result of your Fulbright experiences, it also involves asking how you’ll have an impact on those you’ll meet. You are applying to become a cultural ambassador. It is a big responsibility, but one that I enjoyed every minute of.

Photo: Mildred Gonzalez, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain (far right), with her first year high school students at IES Al-Satt in Madrid, Spain

U.S. Fulbright

The 2013-2014 Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship Competition is Now Open!

November 16, 2012

For the second year, the U.S. Department of State is pleased to offer the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, a new component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for public policy students and young professionals.

The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship allows U.S. citizens to contribute to the strengthening of the public sector abroad by serving in professional placements within foreign government ministries or institutions while simultaneously carrying out an academic research/study project. The fellowship helps advance public policy research agendas, fosters mutual understanding and builds lasting ties between the United States and partner countries. 

Selected Fulbright U.S. Students will work side-by-side with the citizens of other countries to tackle the toughest public policy problems of the day. This exchange is the vanguard of international public diplomacy, as it leverages the excellence of the Fulbright Program to achieve global development objectives.

Applications will be accepted from November 1, 2012 – February 1, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

To learn more about the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, please click here and  here.

U.S. Fulbright

360 Degrees of Ice: How My Global Perspective Expanded with Fulbright, By Zane Thimmesch-Gill, 2008-2009, Canada

November 5, 2012











I remember the exact moment I found out that I’d received a Fulbright grant to study in Canada’s Northwest Territories. I was driving cross-country when a series of tornadoes forced me to take shelter in a ramshackle motel in Eastern Colorado. The walls of the room were hand painted, floor to ceiling, in murals of ducks flying over forested lakes.

When I logged into my email and found the acceptance letter, I literally jumped up and gave the ducks high fives. Later that night as I ate a celebratory dinner of soggy pizza from the gas station next door, I stood by the tiny window in my bathroom, watching tumbleweed lash the still grazing bison.

My memory of that night is so vivid because I had fantasized about living in the Arctic since I was a little kid. I was drawn to the remoteness, to nature in its most pristine form. I understood that climate change was having a profound effect on the Northern ecosystem, but it was still some of the most untouched land on earth.

My Fulbright project would investigate how the Inuit were adjusting, physically and culturally, to the changes brought to the region by a warming planet. Earlier ice melt and later freeze up were altering the migration patterns of the herds the Inuit relied on for sustenance. Non-perishable foods shipped in on barges during the summer had introduced high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives to their diet. From the extensive research I’d done, I’d concluded that these nutritional challenges were the largest risk factor for public and community health. I packed my parka and boots and boarded the plane; confident that I knew what I’d find when I arrived.

My final flight was on an eight seat plane that was built like a tank. We flew over the Northwest Passage and landed on a rocky strip of gravel outside a small community. I’d gotten permission from the mayor and town council to conduct research, so I was uncomfortably surprised the next day when no one would make eye contact or talk to me.

I spent most of my first month wandering along the shore of the ocean and watching the sled dogs pace restlessly. Over that time I slowly came to realize that everything I thought I knew about the Arctic was wrong. No one wanted to talk to me about my research, because the questions I was asking weren’t relevant to their lives. It was a humbling experience. I felt betrayed by the years of research I’d conducted in preparation for my project. With the ubiquity of videos, photos and written material, it was easy to feel as though I already knew the Arctic before I arrived.

Once I was able to let go of my preconceived notions, the community really opened up to me. I started to learn about all of the concerns they did have, their struggles with poverty, questions of sovereignty, justice, education, land use and tourism. As we built trust, people started to confide in me, sharing stories that had seldom passed their lips. By the time the fellowship ended, I had gained a much more nuanced and powerful understanding of how climate change and shifting global economic structures were impacting the Inuit’s public and community health.

It would have been impossible for me to develop such a complex understanding without actually living in the Arctic. That’s the power of Fulbright. I learned how to listen for what was really being said, rather than what I thought I should hear. I learned that conducting literature-based research is important, but books can never tell the whole story. The only way to really know the world is to reach across the globe and make human connections.

Since my Fulbright grant, I’ve gone on to locate funding for two large research projects, learn a new language, and secure a contract for my first book, Hiding in Plain Sight, which will be published in 2013. The skills and knowledge I developed through the grant helped me in every one of those endeavors. Fulbright applicants tend to be intelligent, confident, driven, and resilient. But the grant helps hone those abilities on a professional level.

The Fulbright Association maintains a large support network around the world. Your ties to that global community don’t end when you return to your home country. In addition to working as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, I’ve also been a mentor to Fulbrighters studying in my city and participated in many events put on by my local chapter. These connections have proven invaluable both personally and professionally.

So how do you get involved in this exciting opportunity? It all starts with the application. Find someone you trust to edit your essays. Tell them you want the most honest and rigorous feedback they can give. It’s important that the proposal retains the quality of your own voice, but an editor can identify where your ideas are too vague, the language too flowery and information repeated.

Second, be willing to write and rewrite the application materials until they are clear, succinct, detailed and convey your passion. For reference, I rewrote my project proposal eight times. The degree of organization and professionalism of your application materials will speak to your ability to undertake the responsibility of teaching or researching in a foreign country.

In terms of the application itself, it’s important to approach the process strategically. At the outset it may seem that you don’t have enough space to convey everything you’d like the review committee to know. Be creative in how you include information. For example, there were a few accomplishments that I couldn’t fit into my project proposal or personal narrative, so I asked my references to discuss those achievements in the letters they were writing.

The Foundation for Educational Exchange Between Canada and the United States, or Canadian Fulbright Commission, wants to work with you. My research took place in the extreme North, where there were no realistic options for field supervisors. By planning ahead and starting the conversation with the Foundation early in the process, we were able to come up with a solution that allowed me to conduct my research and have adequate supervision.

Lastly, I was initially nervous to apply to the program because I’m a female-to-male transsexual. I’d read Fulbright’s statement about celebrating and supporting diversity, but it didn’t say anything about transsexuals. Trans people still face extreme discrimination in the United States and I wasn’t sure a government organization would want me. I spent a long time agonizing over whether to apply to the program. I’m glad I did. As a Fulbright Ambassador, I now have a professional relationship with many of the people who are on the application committee. I can attest that they truly seek out and value all diversity, even if they haven’t listed every permutation in their statement. So dream big and know that you, with all that encompasses, are welcome and wanted at Fulbright.

Photo: Zane Thimmesch-Gill, 2008-2009, Canada, filming on an ice road connecting two communities on the shores of Great Slavey Lake in the Northwest Territories