Three win Fulbrights for studies in Vietnam, Spain and Mexico
Faculty advisor says this year's was strongest applicant group ever, reflecting success of Center for Global Engagement
Two Saint Michael’s seniors and a 2022 graduate are winners this year of prestigious and highly competitive Fulbright scholarships to study abroad in the coming year: Hayley Jensen ’22 will study in Vietnam, Jeremy Little ‘23 in Spain, and Aisha Navarrete ’23 in Mexico.
“We also have two alternates,” said Trish Siplon of the political science faculty, the College’s Fulbright advisor, revealing that those alternates are Jeson Li ’23 (Lithuania) and Alexyah Dethvongsa ’22 (Thailand).
“We’re very pleased to have also had two semifinalists, Scott Czerwinski ‘23 (South Korea) and Sydney Nelson’ 23 (France), though they were ultimately not selected,” Siplon said. “The other four applicants for this year (Ashley DeLeon ‘23, Adrien Harwood ’23, Carson O’Neil ’23 and Abby Poisson ’22) all had excellent applications but did not advance to the semi-finals. I think in all, these 11 were as a group the strongest set of applicants we’ve ever had.”
Siplon said the success that Saint Michael’s had with Fulbright this year is part of a larger story about the success of internationalization efforts at the College via the Center for Global Engagement.
“Significantly, for only the second time in College history this year, we had a [State Department] Critical Language Scholar winner, Adrien Harwood (Russian),” said Siplon, who added that Fulbright semi-finalist Sydney Nelson ’23 and applicant Carson O’Neil ‘23 both still are waiting to hear about a Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) award to teach in France, “for which they are well qualified, so we are cautiously optimistic.”
“I am very optimistic that the Center for Global Engagement can continue to bring together the collective efforts of offices and programs around campus,” Siplon said, “from French, Spanish, Applied Linguistics, Education and Peace Corps Prep, whose coursework all figured heavily on the transcripts of finalists, alternates and semi-finalists to Study Abroad.” She also made special mention of the Freeman Internships for study in Asia, “where our students are getting both the desire and qualifications to apply.”
“I hope next year we can continue to grow the Fulbright and CLS programs and also have qualified applicants for Boren and Pickering Fellowships,” she said, thanking “many of the people whose outstanding work with our students helped them do well in this year’s competitions.”
Hayley Jensen is a 2022 graduate in international relations from Washingtonville, NY. She completed the College’s Peace Corps Prep program. She graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and was winner of the Senior Award for community service. Jensen had been teaching overseas for the past year or so.
Jeremy Little is a political science major from Milton, VT, who has been very active in the College’s Model United Nations club. He has been a policy intern with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, an academic tutor, a canvasser with Vermont Democrats and with Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and active with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.
Aisha Navarrete is an international relations major with a minor in environmental science. She grew up biculturally in Mexico and Pawlet in southern Vermont, has been an intern for Migrant Justice, Inc., in Burlington, a board member for Burlington’s Peace & Justice Center, and an intern at the Vermont Democratic Party.
“As a first-generation college student and someone who grew up immersed in two different cultures, I feel very privileged and excited about all opportunities that I have been afforded through higher education,” she said. “I find joy in building connections and exploring different cultures, societies and environments. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, and have studied both French and Swahili. Due to life experiences I have had growing up I am very adaptable.”
Expanding a strong legacy
Before the pandemic, Saint Michael’s College was included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2018-2019 Fulbright U.S. students – that is, American college students awarded Fulbrights for educational experiences around the world.
Fulbrights are highly competitive international grants given to students, scholars, professors and young professionals to study, research or teach overseas. Each year the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces the top producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Under the Fulbright scholarship, graduating seniors are allowed to study abroad for one year. Established in the name of the late Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Scholarship was designed to promote understanding and empathy between different cultures.
Four students from Saint Michael’s received Fulbright awards for academic year 2018-2019, placing Saint Michael’s on a list alongside the very top colleges and universities in the country.
Three Saint Michael’s College seniors at that time and a 2015 graduate learned in April 2018 they had been awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Scholarships — making it the most successful year until this recent announcement, said Siplon, the College’s undergraduate fellowship coordinator for many years.
Siplon said that the progress on Fulbright with at least one winner for all of the five years before the pandemic after at least 20 years with none at all was heavily reliant on Peggy Imai’s outstanding work with our Saint Michael’s College Study Abroad Program, now boosted by the Center for Global Engagement. She also acknowledged faculty Fulbrighters who are a big help in her work. The student Fulbright winners before the pandemic studied in Malaysia, Spain, Brazil and Indonesia.