For the fourth year in a row, a Saint Michael’s College student is the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright award to support extended and intensive international scholarship in the coming year.
Stephanie Lewis, who expects to complete the College’s graduate education program this May and is a 2014 Saint Michael’s graduate with an English major and minors in secondary education and gender studies, recently learned she will be a Fulbright Fellow to Greece with an English teaching assistantship through the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation in Athens, where she will work alongside 11 other Fulbright recipients at an urban high school.
Lewis, whose hometown is Thompson, CT, has been a Resident Director in the 400s Townhouses this year for the College’s Student Life Office during her graduate studies and in GEAR housing for international students from 2014-2016 while working on her education master’s with a concentration on curriculum.
She studied abroad in Argentina her junior year as a Saint Michael’s undergraduate in 2013, but said this will be her first time visiting Greece. Lewis explained how, many times, Fulbright placements in other nations appear to be to more rural settings than where she will go: hopefuls apply to a country, and then are told where they will study and serve, much as in the Peace Corps it would seem. But since Greece has the second-oldest Fulbright program in the world, with a high number of scholars going there, it has slightly different guidelines and applicants can select a specific program, such as the Athens school where Lewis chose to apply.
She described where she expects to work and what she will do there: “The U.S. would consider it a high school and I hope to be teaching at the high school level,” she said. “This placement is unique because it is a well-established school, where other aspects of my job might be working in campus library or career counseling, or in college admissions prep. It’s a full-time work week, and runs roughly from September 2017 to July 2018.”
Lewis is unclear about specifics of her housing arrangement for now, but knows she will live in close proximity to the other Fulbright fellows at her site. That counts as a plus to her. “One piece I’m looking forward to is that, as member of the Saint Michael’s community, I’ve been a host of international students as an undergraduate resident assistant, but it’s exciting to gain experience as a representative of the United States in an academic setting abroad,” she said.
Her grant is for a 10-month teaching placement and covers travel costs and a stipend – essentially all her expenses except for any private travel she chooses to experience.
Fulbright opportunities have been on her radar since her undergraduate days, she said, since her former roommate, Mariclaire O’Neill 14, had a Fulbright fellowship in Malaysia in 2015, which inspired Lewis. She also said she met several international Fulbright scholars on campus and heard more about it from them. O’Neill now works in Cambridge, MA, as an advancement and external affairs associate at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Lewis said.
The application process for Lewis was a long one, starting last September and lasting intermittently until the past month. She said her enormous helpers in the process have included Patricia Siplon of the political science faculty, who took over the student Fulbright program on campus in 2012-13. Saint Michael’s had its first two awards that year: Dylan Renca ’13 and Lewis’s former roommate O’Neill, who studied in Indonesia and Malaysia respectively. “The next year, Alyssa Cuddy ’14 went to Thailand to teach English, and currently Conor Floyd ’16 is in Andorra teaching English,” Siplon said.
Lewis said other members of the Fulbright Campus Committee assisting her greatly have been Patricia Delaney of the anthropology/sociology faculty and Dean Jeffrey Ayres, who both met with her numerous times “to workshop the essays and papers for my interviews – they were incredibly helpful.”
After a September interview with the campus committee, Lewis had a November Skype interview with leaders of the site in Greece where she was applying to work. Though she knows no Greek, that is not a requirement, she said, adding that Greek lessons will be part of her placement. She hopes eventually to work in some aspect of higher education, perhaps ultimately as a dean of students, she said.
Lewis said her other formative undergraduate experiences at Saint Michael’s were active participation in the MLK Society and serving as a writing coach in the Writing Center. She enjoyed working closely with international students as their host on a daily basis in GEAR housing. “I’d like to give a big thank you to Moise St. Louis for his encouragement and support throughout this process,” Lewis said of the College’s associate dean of students who directs the College’s Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services and advises the MLK Society and GEAR leaders.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.
Lewis is a graduate of Tourtellotte Memorial High School, the public high school in Thompson, CT.
Faculty Fulbrights too
Saint Michael’s sociology Professor Robert Brenneman this year also is using his faculty Fulbright awarded last year as a Fulbright Teaching/Research Fellow for 2016-17 in Guatemala, splitting his time between teaching a graduate course in Religion and Violence in Guatemala at Universidad Rafael Landivar, Guatemala’s Jesuit university, and conducting research on the rise and impact of the private security industry in that country. Both aspects of the fellowship are a natural extension of the professor's previous work studying and writing about the impact religion has in counteracting gang violence in Central America. His book examining the subject, Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America (Oxford University Press), was published in 2012.
The Saint Michael’s College Sociology-Anthropology Department has had other Fulbright award recipients, including Professor Patricia Delaney, who received a Fulbright Scholarship for teaching and research at the National University of East Timor. Also, from the College's Education Department, Aostre Johnson was an international Fulbright scholar in recent years in Ireland, studying mindfulness and attention.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.
Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program’s establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Since then, the Program has given more than 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbrighters address critical global challenges – from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security – in all areas, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 54 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 33 who have served as a head of state or government. Fulbright recipients are among over 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.