University alumni, faculty given Fulbright Awards for abroad work

By Jessie Webster

The University is continuing to see a high number of recent graduates and faculty members researching abroad with Fulbright grants.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has named the University as a top producer of United States Fulbright students and scholars.

Each year, the Fulbright program awards more than 1,800 academic grants to conduct individually designed studies or research projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. The grant provides full funding for full or partial tuition, room and board, health insurance and round-trip travel costs. This year, 13 recent alumni were selected as Fulbright students.

This is the fifth consecutive year the University has been listed among the top producers of Fulbright scholars, and is ranked in the top 10 among U.S. public universities and top 20 among all U.S. universities.

In addition to the Fulbright students, six University faculty members were selected as Fulbright scholars. Up to 800 faculty members and professionals are chosen each year by the Fulbright Scholar Program to conduct research in over 140 countries. The program allows scholars to study, teach, conduct research and help find solutions to international concerns.

David Schug, director of the National and International Scholarships Program at the University, believes the high number of Fulbright scholars and students from the University reaffirms its prominence as a public university in the country.

According to Schug, the percentage of students accepted into the program from the University is better than from Ivy League universities Harvard and Yale.

Colby Silvert, a recent graduate with a bachelors degree in horticulture, is currently in Brazil using his grant to improve the relationship between global coffee certified markets, such as Fairtrade and small family farmers.

“What makes my project so interesting is that I will be working directly with coffee farmers who grow coffee around their homes and dry it on cement pads in their front yards; it’s their livelihood,” Silvert said in an email.

While studying food production systems in the Dominican Republic as a freshman, Silvert was inspired to focus his education to help farmers internationally.

Nora Sadik, a recent graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering, became interested in her Fulbright research project while studying abroad her senior year in Uganda. Sadik’s research centers around fieldwork studies in Uganda, which she has been researching since October.

“The goal of my project is to observe how the microbiome of water sources in Kampala, Uganda is affected by the climate and how this then affects disease outbreaks in Kampala,” Sadik said. “I am hoping to better understand what types of microorganisms are prevalent in the rainy and dry seasons and how we might be able to adapt water treatment technologies and consumer habits to prevent disease transmission.”

In addition to University alumni, six current professors were also abroad using Fulbright grants.

Ramona Curry, associate professor of gender and women’s studies, received the “Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies” at Uppsala University, which is a set appointment by Fulbright every year in affiliation with the Swedish Institute for North American Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Curry, who was also awarded a Fulbright senior lecturer grant to conduct research in Hong Kong, has elected to spend one semester in Uppsala instead of an academic calendar year. During her time at the University of Uppsala, Curry will give numerous lectures on her research regarding trans-pacific filmmakers in America, which she also wrote a book on. She will also teach one six-week class on a condensed version of a course she taught at UIUC, titled “Race and Gender in 20th Century American Cinema.”

“Both in Hong Kong and (in Sweden), I’ve felt really welcomed and taken up into the system, as has my family, who accompanied me both times,” Curry said in an email. “It’s a chance for us all to experience new intellectual stimuli and contacts within different academic systems as well as cultures.”

Jessie can be reached at [email protected].