In March 2016, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will sponsor six Fulbright Foreign Student Program students, along with six Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni to participate in a week-long service-learning program in Williamson, WV led by Amizade Global Service-Learning which empowers individuals and communities through worldwide volunteering.
During their week-long program in Williamson, Fulbrighters will participate in service activities and learning about the town and its history. Williamson is a small rural coal-mining town in Mingo County (WV) that once was home to 10,000 residents and a thriving coal economy in the mid-20th century. However, in recent years, Williamson has experienced a collapsed coal mining industry, a series of devastating floods, and de-population. Now a population of 3,000, community members have joined together to create Sustainable Williamson, the local organization with whom Fulbright students and alumni will be working. Sustainable Williamson is a small team of community organizations that work together to increase access to fresh foods, initiate active living programs, and teach healthy living styles. Throughout the week, the Fulbrighters will be sharing in, and learning how, community members are pioneering and engaging in thoughtful work in order to maintain their cultural framework while also creating a realm of new opportunities.
Amizade, through its partnership with Sustainable Williamson in the Appalachia region, will offer Fulbright participants a number of enriching service opportunities throughout the week relating to education, agricultural and economic sustainability, community health and the discovery of how these community components are interrelated. The participants will be using digital storytelling to chronicle their experiences on the Fulbright Student Program blog, as well as on social media using #FulbrightAmizade. We invite you to follow along!
Meet the Fulbright participants:
Allison Braden was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bangladesh in 2013-14. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Allison went slightly north to study literature at Georgia Tech. Allison also worked at the Communications Center tutoring students in written and verbal communication. Allison now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where she is a Member Associate at WFAE 90.7 fm, the local NPR affiliate.
Julia Holup was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia in 2014-15. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. Currently Julia is an organic farmer in Exeter, New Hampshire, where she works as Assistant Manager at Stout Oak Farm, growing diversified vegetables for community members and area restaurants. Julia is committed to growing good food, increasing access to local markets, and engaging diverse populations with the sustainable agriculture movement.
Eric Jenkins-Sahlin was a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher in China in 2013-14, researching Chinese railroad history. Eric is currently producing a documentary about urbanization in China and the resilience of the human spirit. For three years after college, Eric worked at the Harvard Kennedy School. Eric has lived in China for a total of two years and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Jimmy Mahady was a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher in Uruguay in 2013-14. His research focused on the advancement of renewable energy through policy discussion and development. He now works as an environmental consultant at a Seattle firm focusing on policy development and strategic evaluation. Jimmy looks forward to getting the community’s take on a post-fossil-fuel energy paradigm in Williamson, WV and learning more about how coal mining regions can transition away from resource extraction to a more sustainable and equitable economic model
Cheryl Nachbauer was a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher in Chile in 2014-15. Her research focused on designing and developing a holistic disaster relief strategy that utilizes architecture as a therapeutic catalyst to spur both the recovery and reconstruction process of individuals affected by natural disasters. Cheryl now is a social impact designer in Cincinnati, Ohio, who believes that empathetic design can not only empower future leaders but ultimately transform communities. She holds a Masters of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor’s degree in architecture with a major in Spanish from the University of Kentucky.
Anna Reich was a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher in Lithuania in Photography in 2013-14. Currently, Anna is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Augustana University in South Dakota. She earned her M.F.A from the Milton Avery School of Art at Bard College. Her photographic work investigates memory and identity. Anna has exhibited throughout the U.S. and in Australia, Iceland, Lithuania and Russia. In addition to her Fulbright, she has received numerous grants including a travel grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Art (2013) and an Artist as Activist Research Grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (2015). Anna worked as a visiting artist and lecturer at both the Vilnius Art Academy in Lithuania and the Art Academy of Latvia.
Oyeniyi Abe (Niyi) is a Fulbright Student from Nigeria conducting his Ph.D. research at Loyola University, Chicago School of Law. Prior to his Fulbright grant, he taught international human rights, commercial law and conflict resolution at a private institution in Nigeria. He also works with local communities and NGOs in the Niger-Delta region emphasizing environmental sustainability and coordinating efforts at mitigating adverse effects of human rights violations. Niyi hopes to put his love of gardening to work in Williamson, WV and contribute to the community gardening initiative looking at the benefits of natural and sustainable farming practices to help create an environmentally friendly society.
Ahmed A. is a Fulbright Student from the Middle East, studying digital design and fabrication in Texas. Before becoming a Fulbright Student, Ahmed was a research assistant at his home university. As a Fulbright Student, his goal is to build a relationship between his home university and his host university’s school of architecture. When he returns home, Ahmed plans to specialize in parametric urbanism and wants to help revitalize his hometown’s downtown area in order to give back to his community and the Fulbright Program.
Jorge Carabello Cordovez is a Fulbright Student from Colombia pursuing a Master of Arts in Journalism with a Media Innovation concentration at Northeastern University. As a journalist and photographer, Jorge is interested in covering the transformations that digital media have triggered in our communities. Currently, Jorge is working with the “Anti-Eviction Mapping Project,” a collaborative initiative between universities and nonprofits advocating for a change in the housing laws of Boston, where rents continuously rise putting thousands of working-class and immigrant tenants at a serious risk of homelessness.
Khaliungoo Ganbat is a Fulbright Student from Mongolia pursuing a master’s in economic development at Vanderbilt University. Prior to receiving the Fulbright grant and coming to the United States for the first time, Khaliungoo worked with diverse communities across Mongolia and Australia on poverty and community development issues in remote locations, especially in the mineral extractive industry. Working with a team responsible for developing and implementing corporate social responsibility strategies in a world class mining project in Mongolia, Khaliungoo realized when an economy is dependent on extractive industry, it can jeopardize the sustainability and existence of the community even after the completion of the mining project.
Nidhi Sen is a Fulbright-Nehru Student from India pursuing a joint degree master’s program in gender and sustainable international development at Brandeis University. Prior to her Fulbright grant, she worked with policymakers and local communities in India on a range of development issues as a policy researcher, social communicator, and project manager. Nidhi’s current interest lies in creating work opportunities for young girls and women in the informal economy and how that can provide a pathway for their socio-economic mobility.
Raffaella Taylor-Seymour is a Fulbright Student from the United Kingdom working towards a Ph.D. in Comparative Human Development with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She graduated from King’s College, University of Cambridge with a degree in Social Anthropology in 2014. Prior to coming to the U.S. she worked for the BBC’s flagship arts series Arena as a production assistant. She hopes that this project will allow her to understand the socio-economic questions facing rural and mining communities in the U.S. from a local perspective.