Athens, Ga. – Six University of Georgia students were awarded scholarships from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for international travel and study for the 2008-2009 academic year.
William Wiegand of Cohutta, Ga. earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Maria Baetti of Roswell, Blake Scott of Winter Park, Fla., Kate Dunbar of Oxford, Md., Amber Huff of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Richard Owens of Pacific Grove, Calif. earned Fulbright U.S. Student Full Grants for study and research abroad opportunities. Dunbar also was awarded a Fulbright-Hays dissertation research award, which she is using to fund her project.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest international exchange program offered in America and is designed to foster international cooperation and cross-cultural understanding. The grants, which cover travel costs and living expenses, have provided more than 286,000 participants the opportunity to study, research or teach abroad in over 155 nations since its inception over 60 years ago.
“These prestigious grants are a testament to the exceptional achievements of UGA students and UGA’s serious commitment to international education,” said Maria de Rocher, UGA’s Fulbright Program adviser and program coordinator in the Honors Program. “The Honors Program guides UGA students through the application process, helping them craft effective proposals and preparing them for campus interviews.”
Wiegand, who received bachelor’s degrees in international affairs and Spanish in May, is spending a year in South Korea until next July, teaching at an all boys high school in Cheongju. He credits his Honors Program activities as a contributing factor to his success at UGA. Wiegand interned as a legislative analyst with King & Spalding law firm through the Honors in Washington summer program and received an international travel grant to participate in a volunteer program in the Ecuadorian cloud forest where he promoted eco-tourism.
“I am honored to be selected as a Fulbright Scholar,” said Wiegand, who plans to begin law school next fall, “but I wouldn’t be in South Korea right now if it weren’t for the encouragement, support and advice of my family, teachers and close friends.”
Baetti, who also received bachelor’s degrees in advertising and psychology in May, is currently enrolled in the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, a nine-month program to earn a diploma in international relations. As a UGA Foundation Fellow, Baetti was able to travel extensively across Europe, South America, the South Pacific and the Caribbean during her four years at UGA. She also interned with Atlanta advertising firm Fitzgerald+CO and studied wild dolphins off the coast of Bimini Island in the Bahamas. On campus, Baetti served as the political action chair for the Hispanic Student Association, raising awareness about Latino issues at the local and national levels.
“As a student in the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, I have the opportunity to interact with students from all over the world and prepare for a career in an international setting,” said Baetti, who would like to work as a marketing director for a non-profit organization focused on human rights or environmental protection. “I feel very honored to be representing the Fulbright Program and UGA in Austria and I am excited to immerse myself in a culture that is completely new to me.”
Scott, who earned a master’s degree in Latin American history in the spring, has been in Panama since August, studying the historical roots of eco-tourism, focusing on how the views of U.S. tourists have shaped Panama’s environmental and socio-economic history. After completing his undergraduate studies, he backpacked throughout Latin America to learn about the region’s many cultures and peoples. While at UGA, Scott had the opportunity to return to Latin America to conduct research in the highlands of Guatemala last summer. He presented his findings at the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas Conference in Morelos, Mexico.
“More UGA students need to apply for the Fulbright award and realize that there are all sorts of cultural exchange programs to consider after graduation.” said Scott, who will enter a Ph.D. program in Latin American history next fall. “The academic preparation I received at UGA has been fundamental to the success of my research here in Panama.”
UGA’s Department of Anthropology has three Ph.D. students representing its program this year. Dunbar, who has been in Peru for almost two months now, is conducting dissertation work on how highland community residents near the foot of glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range are dealing with changes in water availability due to glacial loss. Dunbar says that her access to conservation experts and innovative research as a research assistant for UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research helped prepare her for the trip. She also credits her work on a hurricane preparedness study with the National Center for Atmospheric Research as an ideal primer for her own research on how communities adapt to environmental changes.
“It is wonderful knowing I have an uninterrupted year to carry out my research in the Cordillera Blanca,” said Dunbar, who would like to work with communities and governments in understanding and developing environmental and social policies upon completion of her degree. “The Fulbright-Hays grant not only improves the quality of my own work, but also allows me to create something of value for the communities participating in the study.”
Starting in November, Huff will research the impact of conservation policies and other types of social changes among residents of the Mikea Forest in southwestern Madagascar. She says that her three months in Madagascar last summer conducting preliminary research gave her an opportunity to practice the Malagasy language and immerse in the culture of the communities, essential for her current work. Huff, a 2007 recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, also presented a poster at UGA’s first Global Health Symposium in April.
“It is very exciting to have been selected for a Fulbright scholarship, making some aspects of my field research much easier because of the resources available through Fulbright,” said Huff, who would like to pursue a teaching, research and public service and outreach career focused on public health policy. “I’ve already made a lot of valuable contacts with other students and scholars doing research in Madagascar and southern Africa.”
Beginning in February 2009, Owens will conduct dissertation research on how economic policy changes are affecting farmers’ agricultural and land-use practices in the Son La province of Vietnam. He traveled for a year throughout Southeast Asia after finishing his undergraduate studies and became interested in the agroecology of the areas he visited. Owens says that his master’s thesis on the home gardens of Vietnamese Americans adapting their styles to U.S. climate conditions enabled him to gain the necessary knowledge for his present work. He also took intensive language courses for two summers through the Southeast Asian Summer Studies Institute.
“For days after reading my acceptance letter, I was unsure if I was living in a dream state or actually beginning to live my dream,” said Owens, who would like to teach and work on social, ecological and political issues concerning agricultural development. “The Fulbright Scholarship will enable me to live in the highlands of Vietnam to conduct my dissertation research, a goal I have had for more than 10 years.”
For more information about Fulbright international opportunities available to U.S. students, see http://us.fulbrightonline.org/home.html.
For more information on UGA’s Honors Program, see http://www.uga.edu/honors.