Fulbright awarded to Fairfield University graduate who will travel to Cyprus to study women's role in peace-building



Image: Sarah BortonYou never know what path will lead you to your future. For Sarah Borton, a former Fairfield University field hockey player who graduated in May of 2010, a chance conversation sparked her imagination and led her down a path that very few follow. Borton, of Forty Fort, Penn., will soon leave for Cyprus where she will study women's role in peace-building through the Fulbright Scholarship program.

"While I was studying in Spain during my junior year, I met someone from Cyprus who was intent on explaining which side of the divide he lived on, only seconds after I had met him," Borton, 23, recalled. "This was before I had started my research, and at the time, I wondered why he would feel the need to immediately bring this up to a stranger, thousands of miles away from his home. Nicosia is recognized as the last divided capital in Europe, and I am very interested in researching the political dynamics there."

According to its website, the Fulbright Program was established more than 60 years ago by the United States Government to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."

Approximately 294,000 Fulbrighters have participated in the program - 111,000 from the U.S. and 183,000 from other countries. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 7,500 new grants annually, and Borton was one of this year's recipients.

"I had a basic understanding of the Fulbright program before I came to Fairfield," Borton said. "I did learn that Fairfield had a reputation for sending a number of Fulbrighters abroad each year. This had impressed me given the size of the international studies department, and within my first year or so, I had determined that I wanted to apply for a scholarship."

Obtaining one of the coveted scholarships can be laborious and intense, especially for someone who does not have a great deal of experience with this type of process. While most seniors were putting together capstones projects, Borton was focused not only on her two capstones but also on writing her first research proposal.

"I applied to the Fulbright program which requires a research proposal and a personal statement," said Borton, who graduated from Fairfield's College of Arts & Sciences, majoring in International Studies, with a minor in Political Science. "It was my first proposal writing experience, and while it did not take me very long to put an initial idea together, it took me about six months to perfect it. I was lucky to have excellent mentoring from a few of my former professors - Dr. Dave Crawford and Dr. Marcie Patton - who were kind enough to help me talk through exactly what I wanted to say no matter how many times I demanded they read another draft. Then I had several months to wait before I heard back from the Fulbright committees."

Borton will leave in a couple months for Cyprus where she will reach out to Cyprus women in two veins - one as researcher and the other as an athlete.

"I will be living in Nicosia for nine months," Borton said. "In that time, my goal is to learn which techniques women's bicommunial groups use in the reconciliation process, and where they have had successes and challenges. I will also be working within the field hockey community on the island to help develop a women's league and compare how sports can also have an impact on peace-building."

One of the aspects about this opportunity that is most intriguing to Borton is her ability to be immersed into the culture, giving her a perspective into her research that could not come from books or classes.

"Cyprus is in such a complex international position, and there's only so much that you can learn from doing outside research," Borton said. "Living in a different part of the world will always provide new opportunities to change the way you think. As someone interested in international politics and policies, I am excited to interact with people who have entirely different world views, not to mention field hockey techniques. I feel very lucky that I am able to visit that part of the world, especially when there is so much change going on internationally. At the same time, I know that Cyprus is still divided for a reason, and I expect to encounter frustration from both sides of the divide."

Borton hopes that her success will far outweigh those frustrations. As Borton navigates through the political complexities of another country, she will blaze and follow a path that will lead to a brighter future for both Borton and the women of Cyprus.

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Media Contact: Jack Jones, (203) 254-4116

Posted on June 27, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 330