Seven students receive Fulbrights

Recent graduates will travel to countries such as Germany, Malaysia, Russia

Jenna Handel ’17 fell in love with Germany after studying in the country during her junior year at Binghamton.

“I volunteered as an English teacher during my stay and found Fulbright to be the perfect opportunity to do what I love in an amazing country,” said Handel, who majored in linguistics and German, and will leave for Germany in September.

Handel is one of a record number of Binghamton University students who received 2017-18 grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

She is one of five students who will serve as teaching assistants abroad. The others are:

· Michael Kotowski ’17, history and PPL. He will serve in Malaysia.

· Rachel Nader ’17, linguistics and French. She will serve in Ivory Coast.

· Andrei Shubin ’15, MA ’17, history and Russian studies. He will serve in Russia.

· Kyle Welch ’17, French and Arabic. He will serve in Morocco.

In addition, Erin Riggs, a graduate student in anthropology, will conduct research in India. The seventh recipient, Lauren Binnert ’17, declined a teaching assistantship Fulbright in Colombia to work for the Peace Corps.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for graduate students to conduct individually designed study/research projects or for graduating seniors to hold English teaching assistantships. During their stays, Fulbright recipients meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country.

“The graduating seniors and graduate students eligible to apply for Fulbright awards are among the University’s most accomplished, talented and promising members of our excellent student body,” Binghamton University Fulbright Adviser H. Stephen Straight said.

Straight called working with potential Fulbright scholars through the Office of External Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards “the single most consistently satisfying responsibility” he has had in 47 years at Binghamton University.

“Meeting with them invariably stirs my imagination and makes my excitement rise as I help them decide what country to aim for, who to turn to for advice and assistance, and how to describe their background and plans in ways that will catch the attention of the many people who will review and — in the end — select their application over the many others that will apply in a given round,” he said.

Kotowski, who leaves for Malaysia in January 2018, said he hopes his 10 months there will help him “spread mutual cooperation and understanding between people from all walks of life.”

“I pursued the Fulbright because I wanted to try to understand the culture and way of life of other people while simultaneously helping others understand mine,” he said. “That is the main objective of the Fulbright program.”

Shubin’s Fulbright combines his love of teaching and U.S.-Russian relations. He will teach English and U.S. history at Saratov State University in Russia beginning in September.

“Being a cultural ambassador for the United States by teaching at a university in Russia is a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people.”

Shubin admitted that he initially thought the Fulbright grant notification was email spam.

“I read it and discovered that I was selected,” he recalled. “I was so excited that I ran around the room. My cat thought I was crazy!”

Straight urged students to visit the Office of External Scholarship, Fellowships and Awards as early as possible in their college careers to not only examine the Fulbright criteria, but also to pursue external-funding possibilities. He praised the staff in that office — specifically Assistant Director Ashley Serbonich and recently retired director Janice McDonald — for the continued success of the University’s Fulbright efforts. Valerie Imbruce now leads the office, but Straight said that McDonald will continue to work part time with him and Serbonich on the Fulbright program.

Even student applicants who do not receive Fulbright grants report that the process is worthwhile, Straight said.

“The process helps them to dream big, weigh their attributes carefully and make strong decisions regarding the kind of life they would like to lead,” he added, “including in some cases a resolve to apply again when their application could be even stronger.”

Posted in: Campus News, Harpur