Fulbright Recipients Share Stories and Research from Abroad

By Joana Salievska

On Thursday, Feb. 18th, recent graduate Forest Jarvis ’15 will discuss his research in environmental policy and natural disasters as a Fulbright scholar in the Philippines. Jarvis is one of the growing number of graduates to apply for a fellowship with the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which funds college graduates and young professionals to study abroad for one year.

Jarvis, who is presenting his research at 12:30 p.m. in the Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room, developed an interest in environmental policy while at the College. During his junior year, Jarvis received the Mellon Research Grant and traveled to Bolivia to research environmental policy, where his interests deepened.

“By the time I got to senior year, I realized that I wanted to go into development economics, especially relating to disaster risk management,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis decided to apply for a Fulbright in the Philippines to continue his research after graduating from the College.

“I chose to go to the Philippines because it’s a country I’ve always wanted to visit, and more importantly because it’s unfortunately a really good place to go if you want natural disasters,” he said.

Jarvis is currently working on a project that is searching for the connection between land tenure and vulnerability to natural disasters.

“I’m carrying out surveys in Sorsogon, one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, to create a household-level disaster vulnerability index, and then compare vulnerability with land tenure and livelihoods.”

Jarvis himself is susceptible to the natural disasters he is researching.

“I also managed to get caught in the middle of a huge typhoon, Typhoon Nona, so my research is looking at preparation and recovery from disasters as they happen.”

Jarvis applied for the Fulbright Study/Research Grant in which a student designs and executes a research project for a specific country, but many Middlebury students also apply to the Fulbright’s ETA (English Teaching Assistant) program.

As the Fulbright website states, the ETA programs place students in schools “overseas to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker presence in the classrooms.”

Mary Robinson ’14 applied for the ETA program in Poland and was placed in Rzeszów, a small city in the southeast of the country. Robinson applied to the Fulbright to gain teaching experience — ­­she hopes to be a professor one day — but also to get the experience of living abroad. “I considered the Peace Corps and various other grants and fellowships, but ultimately decided on Fulbright because I would get experience teaching and would get to choose which country to apply to.”

Lisa Gates, Associate Dean for Fellowships and Research, says that she has seen the Fulbright become a more popular option for Middlebury graduates.

“I have seen a significant increase in applicant numbers. I have also seen a slight increase in number of ETA applications, so that we are closer to 50/50 in application types,” Gates said.

According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State, the Fulbright program awards approximately 2,000 grants for U.S. undergraduates each year. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Fulbright awarded 12 Middlebury students with grants from the 42 applicants. The grantees receive funding from the U.S. State Department to cover travel costs, room and board and incidental costs. In some countries, grants can be used to fund research or language study. The program is immersive and supportive. Since its founding in 1946, approximately 310,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program. Each students is drawn to the Fulbright for different reasons.

Joseph Flaherty ’15 applied to Fulbright’s ETA program so he could deepen his understanding of Turkey’s culture and history after having studied abroad in Istanbul during the spring of his junior year.

“The Fulbright seemed like a great opportunity to represent the U.S. abroad in a positive way and also to learn more about Turkey and to deepen my interest in the country and the history.”
Flaherty is currently working in Sakarya University, where he has been since late September. He teaches English to university students while simultaneously working on side projects.
“Fulbright encourages students to engage in their communities. So, I have been working on research for my articles.”

Flaherty is interested in journalism and is researching the affects 1999 Earthquake in Sakarya as well as the Ruins of Ani, a medieval Armenian city in the Kars Province. He is hoping to have his articles published while he continues his 10-month journey in Turkey.

Zeke Caceres ’15, also an ETA grantee, spends his time when he is not teaching, volunteering for an NGO in Agadir, Morocco. Caceres works on the NGO’s social media campaign. Caceres was a language enthusiast in high school and at the College and decided to apply to the Fulbright to not only continue practicing his Arabic, but also develop a greater understanding of the complexities of the Middle East.

“I believe in cross-cultural exchange and sharing the diversity of the U.S.,” Caceres said. “I have learned a lot about the U.S.’s diplomatic relations with Morocco during my time here and about the Middle East in general.”

Although each student is completing different projects in different parts of the world, they have all reported feeling welcome in their respective countries and a sense of accomplishment that the work they are doing is meaningful.

Steven Dunmire ’13 is currently working as a 6th grade English teacher in the Boston Public School System. He completed his Fulbright in Villa Hermonsa, Mexico the year after he graduated from the College and speaks highly of his experience.

“I gained so many life experiences,” he said. “I learned Spanish skills, like translating on the fly, and how to rely on myself emotionally and psychologically. I felt so accomplished when I created a functional and viable lesson for my students.”

Dunmire, like most of the College’s Fulbright grantees, loved their Fulbright experience.
“I loved Mexico. I never felt unsafe. It is a beautiful country with an amazing history and I am so happy I got to spend a year of my life living there,” he said.