Browsing Tag

Study/Research grant

U.S. Fulbright

From the Field to the Farm: Cultivating Relationships Outside of the Classroom

June 6, 2013
Justin Dunnavant

Justin Dunnavant, 2009-2010, Jamaica, (center) and Mr. Ricky (right) helping to cultivate a community farm in Portland, Jamaica

When I first applied for a Fulbright grant to Jamaica, I called on teachers, administrators, and Howard University’s alumni network for guidance. They were helpful in fine-tuning my study/research proposal and ensuring that I had a feasible plan. But perhaps the most invaluable piece of advice I received was to “expect the unexpected.” A thorough plan is definitely needed when conducting international research, but you need to make sure that it’s also flexible.

While studying in Jamaica, I divided my time between the University of West Indies and other institutions throughout Kingston. At the university, I enrolled in courses in Caribbean culture and historical archaeology, while participating in archaeological excavations on the historic Mona Plantation. In addition to the work I was doing at the university, I also ventured over to the national archives to gather more information on the slave trade from Madagascar to Jamaica, and to Liberty Hall, a community youth center, where I volunteered at an after-school program teaching math, reading, and history to students age five to fifteen.

After completing my research and teaching commitments, an opportunity arose to participate in a community project outside of Kingston during the final month of my Fulbright grant. At the invitation of two former American Civil Rights organizers, I took a trip to the parish of Portland. Now resident in Jamaica, the Civil Rights veterans helped establish the International School for Bottom-Up Organizing based on many of the same principles they learned as community organizers in the 1950s and 60s in the United States. At the local level, the organization is run by local youth and supervised by community elders to address social and economic issues. The social programs ranged from community discussions about gender relations to community organizing, and the economic ventures included workshops on fundraising, sustainable energy, and collaborative farming. I began working with the organization right after they had agreed to start a small-scale community farm to raise some funds.

The land was cleared and ready to till. After the long months I spent in the library and the classroom, it was good to be able to get some sun! Jamaica is famous for its rolling hills and mountainous landscape, which make for scenic views, but which can also pose problems for farming. Having absolutely no background in agriculture, working in Portland taught me a great deal about community and cultivation. We planted corn, cocoa, and various types of beans. In the process, I learned a few tricks of the trade, such as planting tree saplings perpendicular to the slope to secure their roots against the impact of heavy rains. At the end of the day, the seeds had been sown and our work concluded with a hearty lunch of curry chicken, rice, and boiled dumplings cooked on site.

The farm lasted about a year before the youth decided to switch to the more lucrative business of raising chickens and selling their eggs. While I originally went to Jamaica to study archaeology and history, I left with a greater appreciation and understanding for the hard work that goes into farming and developing a healthy community. The International School for Bottom-Up Organizing now carries out partner programs in Jamaica and Colombia creating mutual exchange opportunities between peoples of both countries.

Have questions for Justin? He can be contacted as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador at

U.S. Fulbright

Expecting the Unexpected–Cosmic Ray Physics in Argentina

February 13, 2013
Zigfried Hampel Arias, 2009-2010, Argentina

Zigfried Hampel-Arias, 2009-2010, Argentina, working on a detector element of the Pierre Auger Observatory

As a physicist, I study cosmic rays—high-energy particles that zip around the universe. If scientists are lucky, these cosmic rays land on detectors set up on the ground. For my Fulbright grant, I worked at the Pierre Auger Observatory, a detector located in Mendoza, Argentina. By analyzing the information gained from the detector, physicists can better understand the origins and fate of our universe.

My Fulbright research focused on how the observatory was aging and its potential impact on the search for the elusive sources of cosmic rays. Initially, I thought that the project would be fairly straightforward, but that was not to be the case. After consulting with my Argentine colleagues, I realized that I had to write my own computer simulation program to solve the problem. I had to simplify the physics involved and to incorporate only those interactions that were essential to the problem. Another surprise was that I have been able to use the simulation I wrote during my Fulbright for my current doctoral research in physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This was not what I was expecting, but early into my grant period, I realized that unexpected experiences are an integral part of the Fulbright experience.

Continue Reading

U.S. Fulbright

Home on the Steppe: My Fulbright in Mongolia

February 6, 2013

Shebana Coelho, 2006-2007, Mongolia, experiencing adventures in eagle wrangling on the road to Terelj, outside of Ulaanbataar.

I know there was a time when Mongolia didn’t feel like another home, before I went there on my Fulbright grant, before 2006. But I can’t remember it. Every time I speak Mongolian, it feels like a homecoming. I spoke it last on December 21 at the Embassy of Mongolia in Washington, DC. I said, “Sain bain uu, bi Shebana baina,” “hello, I’m Shebana,” to the group of about seventy people who had gathered to hear my multimedia presentation about being on the move in Mongolia. It was co-organized by the Embassy of Mongolia and the Mongolian Cultural Center, based in Arlington, Virginia.

I went to Mongolia looking for nomads, I said in my presentation, but I also found the city, Ulaanbataar, Mongolia’s capital where I took intensive language lessons. My time in Mongolia ranged between learning the language in the city and living with nomadic families in the “yag hoodoo,” the countryside proper. Each season, I went to a different Mongolian province: Eastern Mongolia, during calving season in the spring; the green north, where I learned sheep herding in the summertime; the Gobi Desert, for autumn adventures in camel herding; and Western Mongolia, with Kazakh families during the winter. I recorded nomadic families at work, rest, and play, and returned with tons of audio and photos including interviews, ambient sounds, and songs.

Continue Reading

U.S. Fulbright

Mapping Collected Memory in Amman

January 11, 2013

Regina Mamou, 2009-2010, Jordan, photographing on location in Shmeisani’s Prince Hashem Bird Garden, assisted by Bradley Heinz and Andrew Boylan (image by Regina Mamou).


My Fulbright journey in the visual arts began more than one year before I left for Amman, the capital city of Jordan. I first identified Jordan as the country to which I wanted to apply in June 2008 for the 2009-2010 Fulbright competition. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 2007, I maintained connections with the Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) at SAIC and with professors in photography, my field of study. Even though I applied At-Large, these individuals met with me on a regular basis to review my Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement, and helped flesh out my research interests. I also formed an off-campus Fulbright group with three other SAIC students, which was a fruitful product of the application process. As a group, we met a few times each month to review our writing samples and offer one another support before the application deadline.

My interest in Jordan stems from my Middle Eastern heritage as my father was born and raised in Iraq. He was the first person in his family to immigrate to the United States. My extended family moved to Amman, Jordan, before they, too, eventually immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. Memory is an inherent quality of photography and I was interested in connecting with Jordan, a place that held familial significance. I began to conduct research on memory studies and navigation in Amman and was drawn to a weekly Internet-based column entitled, “Urban Crossroads,” by Mohammad al Asad, the founding director of the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) in Amman. Reading these online articles allowed me to make abstract associations to the city, such as the fact that Amman only recently implemented house and street number addresses, and that residents have traditionally used a memory-based navigation system. This discovery led me to construct a Fulbright project about exploring navigational methods as a metaphor for interpreting a contemporary city, in addition to considering issues of architecture, urban planning, and population growth.

Continue Reading

U.S. Fulbright

Writing Tips for Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship Applicants: Think About the Five Ws and One H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How)

January 4, 2013

If you’re applying for a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship application and currently working on your Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement, make sure to ask yourself the six journalistic questions. In the words of current Fulbright Public Policy Fellow Taylor Steelman (who recently participated in a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship Webinar), “Keep asking yourself one question: WHAT skills, knowledge, and experience of yours will benefit the host country or institution, and HOW?”

In writing your Statement of Grant Purpose, describe your relevant background and skills that support why you are uniquely qualified to pursue a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship. How will those skills be implemented during your grant? How will they help you to engage with your host supervisors and local community?

For your Personal Statement, tell your story and how, personally and professionally, you arrived at the decision to pursue a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship. This is the essay in which you can give reviewers a better sense of who you are, your leadership qualities, why you’re passionate about your field and what you hope to achieve as a result of pursuing a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship.

Want more advice on how to write your Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship essays? Review the Tips for Study/Research in Academic Fields on our website. Also, attend an upcoming Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship Webinar.