POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Six members of Vassar’s class of 2009 and four alumnae/i were recently awarded Fulbright grants for research, graduate study, or English teaching assistantships abroad. The Fulbright program is sponsored by the US Department of State, and was established in 1946 by Congress to promote international understanding.
The Vassar class of 2009 Fulbright recipients include Sam Anderson, Allison Bloom, Laura Fletcher, Michael Frenkel, Jonathan Kaiman, and Alexander “Sasha” Steinberg; alumnae/i recipients include Ethan Bien (2004), Geoffrey Hilsabeck (class of 2003), Acacia O’Connor (class of 2008), Kristina Poznan (class of 2008).
“I’m incredibly excited, but I am also very honored to have been chosen to represent the US as a teacher and a cultural ambassador,” said Michael Frenkel (Ridgewood, NY).
Frenkel, a 2009 graduate who majored in political science, won an English teaching assistantship to Spain.
“I became interested in Spanish culture and politics through my Hispanic studies classes at Vassar. I spent a few weeks traveling through the country last year, and was fascinated by everything that I saw. I can’t wait to return and finally immerse myself fully in Spanish culture,” he said.
Frenkel plans to teach at a high school and study Spanish politics. Outside of the classroom, he plans to set up an English language debate society for local high school students.
Allison Bloom (Westport, CT), a 2009 graduate and Women’s Studies major, was awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship to Uruguay.
“I intend to use my time as an ETA to gain first-hand experience in promoting international collaboration through education.”
In the future Bloom plans to work in the international community to promote the improvement of the status of women worldwide. Specifically, she hopes to foster gender-conscious education as a vital tool towards curbing and preventing violence against women.
Alumnus Geoff Hilsabeck (Iowa City, IA), a 2003 graduate and English major also received an English teaching assistantship for Portugal. This fall semester he is teaching about contemporary United States history and culture during and “English as a Second Language” during the spring semester at the University of Lisbon.
“I plan to lead conversation groups outside the university, in my neighborhood, the Alfama,” noted Hilsabeck. Beyond that, he said hopes to learn about, and translate, contemporary Portuguese poetry.
Acacia O’Connor (Washington, DC), a 2008 graduate who majored in English, also received an English teaching assistantship. O’Connor will teach in Italy where she plans to involve herself in local youth groups by coaching basketball and soccer.
At Vassar, O’Connor was an editor of the college’s student newspaper, the Miscellany News, and over the past year worked as a staff assistant in the Association of American Publishers’ communications and public affairs department. She plans to write essays or maintain a blog about her experiences while abroad.
Another English teaching assistantship, this time for Hungary, was awarded to history major Kristina Poznan (Fairfield, CT), a 2008 graduate. She plans to report back on her experiences to the Hungarian-American community by writing articles for several small publications.
Poznan said that she “hopes to further connect with Hungarian culture and the community by taking courses in Hungarian history, volunteering at a youth organization, and by joining a local church and fencing club.”
Alexander “Sasha” Steinberg (Urbana, IL), Vassar class of 2009, was awarded a Fulbright grant to research the role of the arts in contemporary Russian society. In his independent major called Modern Literatures, Steinberg studies the printed word, film, music, and performance and visual art from different societies.
“Essentially, [my Fulbright] project will be a case study in the kind of artistic philosophy I developed in the independent program,” he said. “I believe that the arts should be used to critique and examine contemporary social reality. I want to see if and how this is playing out in Moscow, one of the most rapidly changing cities of the modern world.”
As part of his research program, Steinberg will enroll part time in the Russian State University for the Humanities. After his year abroad, he plans to study for a PhD in Comparative Literature.
Sam Anderson (Boulder, CO) received a Fulbright research grant to Morocco, following his graduation from Vassar this year.
Anderson plans to interview Moroccan veterans, members of the French Army in World War Two, about their experiences during and after the war in Europe as well as their participation in the Moroccan nationalist movement of the 1950s. The goal of his project is to collect and publish these oral histories for the use of future scholars.
Ethan Bien (Jay, ME), who graduated with a Russian studies degree in 2004, was also awarded a Fulbright research grant to Russia.
Bien will study Soviet animation through a research-based internship and interviews with surviving animators. He plans to explore the working environment and techniques that were used in animation, particularly in the 1980s.
Jonathan Kaiman (Piermont, NY), 2009 graduate who majored in Cognitive Science and Chinese, also received a research grant and plans to study the impact of modernity on the musical traditions of the Yi people in southwestern China.
“I started thinking about Fulbright my sophomore year, when I learned that it could help me pursue my interests in music and China,” said Kaiman. “As I picked up advice from friends, professors and the Fellowships Office, I narrowed my focus to music from the Yi minority and searched for a university that would host me to study it.”
A university in China’s southwestern Yunnan province will host Kaiman while he studies the development of Yi music.
Laura Fletcher (Branford, CT) will also travel to China on a Fulbright research grant following graduation this year. An Asian studies and psychology major, Fletcher will study how psychology is taught and used to counsel students in Beijing and Qingdao.
“I had been waiting to hear from the Fulbright committee for almost three whole months, so I felt a mixture of elation and relief when I finally received my reply,” she said. “I will attend classes at Beijing Normal University, while studying how psychology professionals are trained and the kinds of psychological services available to students in China’s schools.”
Vassar’s Office for Fellowships supports more than 40 students each year in their applications for Fulbright grants to research, study or teach abroad.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.