Can you tell us about Girl in Glass, and how that book came about?
GIRL IN GLASS is the story of my daughter’s birth, nearly four months premature–and how I learned to be the mother of a child I knew I could lose at any moment. The book also explores, in a larger societal context, what it means to sustain a life: from the front lines of neonatal intensive care units to the perils of the American health care system to the force of a child’s will to live.
For a long time, I was so steeped in the trauma surrounding my daughter’s arrival that I couldn’t imagine ever telling this story. Then, a year after I brought her home from the hospital, the CEO of my husband’s company publicly blamed her for being a drag on the bottom line and slapped a price tag on her life, setting off a national firestorm. It was only then, as the circumstances of her birth became the subject of countless headlines, that I realized I needed to speak out to defend the basic worth of her life.
Janet Rafner, 2015-2016, Denmark (center) with fellow Fulbright U.S. Student Natalie Hoidal (left) and Truman Fellow Jordan Went (right) attending Janet Rafner’s ‘Call Me Quantum’ Exhibition featured during Copenhagen’s Culture Night at the Niels Bohr Institute. Traversing through the exhibit, one experiences a range of phenomena such as the atomic orbitals, tunnel effect, wave particle duality and superconductivity from orthogonal perspectives. Layers of design, graphics, and illustrations unveil the scientific process, revealing the compelling and elegant physics that inspired the work. This exhibit displays contents created by the Physics Reimagined group at the University Paris Sud and The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. Design in collaboration with the students from the design school ENSCI-Les Ateliers and Ecole Estienne. (Photo Credit: Professor Robert Feidenhans’l)
While on my Fulbright grant in Interdisciplinary Studies in Denmark, I have been so fortunate to interact with passionate, dedicated like-minded people and kindred spirits across many disciplines. From creative designers and game developers to physicists, computer programmers, cognitive scientists and public outreach experts, these individuals form a unique community dedicated to enhancing science and mathematics comprehension and research outcomes. As a rule, they are intensely curious, willing to take risks and experiment, and passionate about collaborating, even when the project is only tangentially related to their core research. The result is a continuous flow of inspirational energy and a sense that anything might be possible if the right group of people come together.
In this environment where progress often comes from discovering and following unconventional paths, having great mentors has also been crucial to my Fulbright work. The process has allowed me to excel while contributing to diverse scientific and outreach projects, tapping into my own motivations and talents, and building new collaboration skills. The projects have helped me better understand how to bring the concepts of complex physics into the vernacular as well as make them accessible to a wider range of researchers. Professors Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard and Jacob Sherson, my sponsors and mentors at Aarhus University have made these projects possible – I couldn’t ask for a more supportive faculty. In coming years, I look forward to both being a mentor and having new mentors so I can continue to explore how technical tools and artistic creativity can be used to express complex concepts in science, and to share her findings internationally.
Congratulations to 2011 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Turkey, Devin Sommer, winner of the Institute of International Education and The New York Times in Education Generation Study Abroad Video Contest! Check out his wining video below. To learn more about Generation Study Abroad, click here.
Hanna Miller, 2013-2014, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Russia (right), surveying Russia through a telescope
Mississippi Heard began in Russia. On a month-long train ride across Russia during my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), I gathered video and audio recordings while fellow Fulbrighter Stephen Barton photographed the people and places we came across and met. We asked Russians about their perceptions of America and how they defined themselves within their own pre-existing stereotypes.
But, the train ride was just one side of the story. After hearing how Russians felt about my homeland, international (mis)perceptions, and their “true” identity, I was left wondering – what do people from my home think about this country I’ve lived in for the past 10 months?
Born and raised in the South, I grew up in a town of 2,000. When I lived in Naberezhnye Chelny, Tatarstan, Russia with a Fulbright ETA, my students often asked me what life was like in America. They had ideas I came from a land of wealth, privilege, and luxury. While I can’t deny the United States is toppling over with too much, it is fact I grew up in the poorest, fattest, least educated state: Mississippi.
Ty Van Herweg, 2015-2016, Uganda (right), and CEO & Founder of Wakabi, with Jagwe Rogers, COO, and Joseph Onguti, Wakabi’s official trainer
It all started when I was sitting with my mentor, Dr. Thane Kreiner, at Santa Clara University. I was deconstructing my Global Social Benefit Fellowship experience and explaining all of these epiphanies I had about the interconnectedness of last mile distribution in Uganda. Suddenly he remarked, “You are trying to start an Uber for rural Africa.” That’s when everything changed. That’s when my purpose was carved into stone.
I immediately scrounged for all the various opportunities like a mad man. Fulbright became the best option. Sure, it was prestigious and extremely competitive, but it was my only reasonable option to test the business model I had dreamed up. I submitted my application after much rigor and editing, and prayed for the best. I started collaborating with two engineers at Santa Clara University as the waiting game commenced. I was the igniter of a crazy idea, and the energy that came with it was beyond anything I had ever felt before.
In April I received good news; Fulbright gave me a shot and offered me a grant, and I was ready to do just about anything and everything to make Wakabi a reality. I was given the gift of a low-risk, nine-month pilot. There is no better opportunity for a young and broke social entrepreneur.