Three 2012 Fairfield University graduates win Fulbright Awards


After receiving their degrees on May 20, three Fairfield University graduates were headed along very different paths as recipients of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to do research and teach abroad. Erin Eife, of West Chester, Penn., will travel to Ireland; Julianne Whittaker, of Acton, Mass., will head to Jordan; and Kathryn Bimson, of Montauk, N.Y., will travel to Thailand.

Image: E EifeErin Eife was a presidential scholar and honors student at Fairfield, where she double majored in politics and sociology, with minors in both Irish studies and peace and justice. She designed her plan of studies to lay the foundation for a career in criminal justice and has a deep commitment to humanize that field. Her Fulbright to Ireland will afford a yearlong study of the effectiveness of the country's proactive programs of re-integration of women prisoners into Irish society. Building on her study abroad experience in spring 2011, Eife will return to the National University of Ireland, Galway, to work with Professor Niamh Reilly, co-director of the Global Women's Studies Program, who will serve as her Fulbright sponsor.

"I chose Ireland as my country of study because of its progressive penal system, but also because of my close personal connection," she said. "As an Irish-American, I studied abroad in Galway and fell in love with my ancestral roots."

She also plans to draw from her experiences on the Fairfield University women's rugby team to participate in the Gaelic Athletic Association, which counts rugby among one of the country's three native sports. On return from Ireland, she intends to pursue graduate studies in criminal justice.

"This has provided me with an opportunity to culminate all of my passions into one project, allowing me to research a subject about which I am extremely passionate, while living in a country and culture that feels like home," she said. "To me, this Fulbright Scholarship is not only an academic honor, but also a dream come true."

Image: Julianne WhittakerJulianne Whittaker double majored in international studies and economics at Fairfield. She spent fall 2010 studying at the University of Jordan, where she also interned with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) for Palestinian Refugees. When she returned to the United States after study abroad, she continued her work with UNWRA and assisted vulnerable populations in the Middle East through a summer internship with the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as a fall internship with the International Institute of Connecticut.

A common thread running through her experiences is a passion for working with youth, which she has also sustained during her senior year via an innovative State Department E-Diplomacy project with Mexican youth. Her Fulbright to Jordan is an English Teaching Assistantship, to which she will bring her E-Diplomacy and social media savvy, along with her deep compassion, good humor, and deftness at building bridges, all infused with proficiency in Arabic and her abiding commitment to connect Arabs and Americans.

"My work will consist of leading English conversation practice, implementing cross-cultural projects, and volunteering in the local community," Whittaker said. "I decided to pursue this program, in particular, because I am passionate about promoting cross-cultural understanding between the U.S. and the Arab world. Immersion in a Jordanian university also provides me the opportunity to dialogue with Jordanian youth, my peers, and gain local perspective on larger international issues."

She plans to pursue a master's degree in Middle East studies or migration and refugee studies, and then begin her career in foreign service with the U.S. government. Whittaker also received Fairfield University's William J. Kramer '60 Humanitarian Award, given for community volunteer service.

Image: Kathryn BimsonKathryn Bimson of Montauk, New York, was a presidential scholar and honors student at Fairfield, where she majored in biology with a peace and justice studies minor. She was known to peers and faculty for her wonderful set of skills, teaching experiences, and engaging ways of relating to people, peers and children through science.

While studying abroad during her junior year in Cape Town, South Africa, she was readily accepted into the community of the students she taught in the Langa Township. She also taught marine biology to students ages three to 75 through Cornell University's Marine Environment Summer Camp and was a teaching assistant in the biology program at Fairfield. She plans to integrate her interests in biodiversity into teaching English to students in Thailand. After her Fulbright year, she plans to pursue graduate studies in marine biology.

"The idea of living abroad and teaching in a new community is one that excites me greatly," she said. "I can't wait to meet my students and the rest of the community at the Mae Chan Wittayakom School in Chiang Rai, a northern province of Thailand. I hope to learn about their customs and traditions while also inviting them to learn more about my life as an American. I have heard that the Thai people are very welcoming and lighthearted, and I hope to also show them that Americans can also have those same qualities. The chance to do this is a great honor and I am ready to begin this amazing experience!"

Janie Leatherman, Ph.D., director of the Fulbright program at Fairfield and professor of politics, said she's very proud of this year's Fulbright recipients. "They will be wonderful cultural ambassadors for the United States," she said. "And they will bring back home new perspectives, understandings, as well as lifelong friendships and ties that will shape their contributions to American society as well - another vital element of the Fulbright experience."

See where our most recent Fairfield Fulbright Scholars will conduct reasearch and teach. Watch videos

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 11, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 4