A record-tying five Fairfield University students awarded Fulbright scholarships


Fairfield University's extraordinary success with graduating seniors winning Fulbright Scholarships continues this year with five Fairfield graduates being selected to receive Fulbright grants for the 2007-08 academic year. This ties records set last year and in 2000 for the number of Fairfield students to receive this prestigious honor awarded by the U.S. government.

Established in 1946 by Congress, the Fulbright program is the largest United States international exchange program. The program aims to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries. Recipients, who include students, teachers, scholars and professionals, go abroad for one year to engage in international graduate study, research, work or teaching. Last year, recipients did so in more than 150 countries.

This year's five Fairfield University Fulbright winners will be living in five different countries. Their areas of study include homeland security, the plight of women in an Arab nation, the global economy in South America, and the literature of the Republic of Georgia. Another student will be teaching in Italy and studying the Italian Renaissance.

Four of the Fairfield recipients are 2007 graduates, and they are: Aamina Awan, of Sturbridge, Mass.; Evan Berard, of Shelton, Conn.; Elizabeth Blake, of Guilford, Conn.; and Kate Cota, of Cromwell, Conn. James Costa, a 2006 graduate from New York, N.Y., also won a Fulbright.

Since 1993, 44 Fairfield University students have won Fulbright Scholarships. Dr. Miriam S. Gogol, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and coordinator of the Fulbright program, said the success rate with undergraduates being awarded Fulbrights is a testament to Fairfield fostering values of lifelong learning and independent intellectual thought. Fairfield students go through a challenging process of developing Fulbright study proposals, which involves close mentoring by the Fairfield University Fulbright faculty committee.

Orin Grossman, Ph.D., academic vice president, said, "Our students certainly exhibited initiative in developing these thoughtful research projects that will ultimately foster more understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. The success of our Fulbright program is also due to the close mentoring of our students by dedicated faculty and administrators."

Aamina Awan will travel to Bahrain, where she will study women in this small Arab nation. She will be working on a research project about the education, entrepreneurship and economic empowerment of the country's women.

Awan's interest in the topic partly grew out of her family heritage and her studies at Fairfield as a double major in International Studies and Political Science. She said, "My Fulbright is an economic development grant that looks into women's economic empowerment in Bahrain through entrepreneurship and private investment banking."

She plans to conduct her research at the University of Bahrain, and hopes to do an internship at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence (CEEB) in Manama, Bahrain. She spent her junior year studying in Granada, Spain, which fed her desire to study abroad again.

Awan's interests in learning about other cultures and helping those in need fused together and led to what she calls her major accomplishment at Fairfield. She co-founded a project called the Afghan Children's Fund with Mikaela Conley '06. The two teamed up to help raise $3,000 for a well for villagers northwest of Kabul City. A plaque on the well reads: "A gift to Afghan Children from Fairfield University, United States of America. Peace Brings All Good Things."

Evan Berard feels his time as an International Studies major at Fairfield laid the groundwork for his Fulbright research project. He will study the societal structure in Venezuela, where his research will also examine multinational corporations and how they interact with state governments. "I intend to look at foreign corporations operating in Venezuela and answer the question of whether or not these companies, which are a part of the global economy, are infringing upon the sovereignty of state governments."

The Shelton, Conn. resident credits his International Studies professors at Fairfield for helping him "to squeeze out as much as I possibly could from my college experience. The core curriculum was amazing and has made me appreciate every aspect of my life in a much more meaningful way than I was ever able to prior to college."

Elizabeth Blake's Fulbright year will find her at the Canadian-United States border, studying the implications of the beefed-up border patrol policy in the wake of September 11. "I'm going to be located at the Canadian/United States border at the Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan crossing looking at it from the perspective of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)."

The WHTI was mandated by Congress as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 that resulted from the findings of the 9/11 Commission. The law has strengthened border security and required American citizens to show passports at the Canadian and Mexico borders. It also has led to travel and security changes for travelers into the U.S. from Bermuda, the Caribbean and South America and Central America. Blake's research project is entitled, "Social and Economic Effects of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative."

Blake graduated with a double major in Communication (Media Studies concentration) and Political Science and a minor in Classical Studies, and was active in the Student Alumni Association and the Campus Communication Club. The Guilford, Conn. resident plans to stay in Canada and pursue a master's degree in political science at the University of Windsor.

Kate Cota's research project deals with learning about literature in the Republic of Georgia. Undoubtedly, her education at Fairfield instilled in her a curiosity about her topic. She graduated with a double major in English and psychology and a minor in Russian/Eastern European Studies. More specifically, she will be researching literature in the Georgian Educational System.

Despite her many travels, Cota's favorite Fairfield memories happened right on campus. They include being a member of both the Fairfield University Student Association (FUSA), and Ignatian Residential College which integrates living and learning with a focus on Jesuit ideals. She is from Cromwell, Conn.

James Costa, who majored in history and Italian, will be a Teaching Assistant in Italy. "I will act as an assistant instructor of English and American history at either the high school or elementary level."

While a junior at Fairfield, Costa spent two semesters studying in Syracuse, Sicily, and in Florence, Italy, making him the Renaissance enthusiast that he is today. It also led to his independent research project idea. "Wherever I am placed (in Italy), I will try to investigate the archives to dig up information regarding crime and punishment in Renaissance Italy. I am interested in researching about the law enforcement of the time period."

Costa hopes to find answers to a host of questions, including who acted as the police at the time and who did the police serve - the general population or the nobility. Ultimately, he hopes to get a foot in the door to the world of archival research in Italy. Costa, who was born and raised in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, intends to go to graduate school after his Fulbright experience to become a history professor.

The Fulbright Faculty Committee and Advisory Board and Associate Coordinator of the Fulbright Program Benedetta Maguire assisted the student applicants. The committee and board members include: Edward M. Dew, Ph. D., professor of Politics; Alan N. Katz, Ph. D., professor of Politics; Sharlene A. McEvoy, professor of Business Law; David W. McFadden, Ph. D., professor of History; Marie-Agnes Sourieau, Ph.D., professor of Modern Languages and Literatures; David L. Crawford, Ph. D., assistant professor of Sociology and Anthropology; Gisela Gil-Egui, Ph. D., assistant professor of Communication; Mary Ann Carolan, Ph.D., associate professor of Modern Languages and Literatures; Wendy Kohli, Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions; Marsha Alibrandi, Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and Sister Julianna Poole, SSND., TESOL.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 11, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 8