Fairfield's Fulbright Scholars and Specialists Announced
On August 1,1946 President Harry S. Truman signed a bill into law that created the Fulbright Program, an international educational program sponsored by the United States government. This year, three of Fairfield University’s own are among the elite group to be awarded Fulbright grants to embark on educational experiences abroad.
Kayla Urbanowski ‘17 will travel to Brazil to research the foraging and movement activity of a short-tailed fruit bat species. After returning from a semester abroad during her junior year, she dreamed of returning to Brazil and acting as a cultural ambassador, in addition to continuing her research. The application process was stressful, she admitted, but it was all worth it when she heard of her acceptance.
“It was one of the most surreal moments of my life,” said Urbanowski. “Utter bliss is the best description of how I felt at the moment. Brazil holds such a special place in my heart and it is a dream come true to be able to return, especially under such amazing circumstances.”
Urbanowski will be taking graduate classes and performing biological research during her time in Brazil. As a cultural ambassador, she hopes to help bridge the gap between the United States and Brazil and represent the University by honoring the Jesuit values she has learned in her four years at Fairfield.
The recipient of the Flex Fulbright Award, Dr. William Vasquez Mazariegos, associate professor of economics, understands the responsibility of his findings when he travels to Guatemala in June-August 2018 and June-August 2019. Especially since he will be traveling to his home country.
His motivation for applying to the program was based on findings from a previous research project in which he investigated the factors that impeded the extension and improvement of solid waste services in Guatemala.
“Solid waste disposal has become a major health concern in the developing world due to considerable impacts on the environment and population health, and my home country is not an exception,” he said. “We found that the provision of solid waste collection services can reduce the prevalence of diarrhea among Guatemalan children by 20%. With my research, I intend to be part of the solution to this ongoing problem.”
Dr. Gita Rajan, a professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences has been awarded Fulbright Specialist status, an honor that follows on the heels of serving as a Consultant to The World Bank last year. The Fulbright Specialist program sends U.S. faculty and professionals to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning and related subjects at academic institutions abroad.
Dr. Rajan will bring her extensive experience in gender empowerment initiatives to the program. Her skill training project, India Step, which is designed to help bring girls into the workforce after effective skill training and to explore support structures that will enable them to remain in the workforce, along with her two decades of teaching and focused mentoring, is what makes her uniquely qualified for this prestigious position.
“The Fulbright Specialist status enables me to consult on education and gender empowerment over the next three years,” she says. “I am excited to be able to be one more person putting my shoulder to the wheel of sustainable gender development efforts. I’m extremely grateful to Interim President Babington for mentoring me and to Drs. Christine Siegel and Ron Davidson and Susan LaFrance for their strong support in helping me get this award.”
Her planned Indian partner for the Fulbright Specialist work is Loyola College in Ahmedabad, India. She will begin her work by the faculty here set-up Service Learning based courses, test the idea of having some of the students taking the newly-developed courses to help collect data for her gender research Additionally, Dr. Rajan has forged a consortium of six major Indian research universities to pursue future research of reaching goals in gender empowerment and sustainable development. Dr. Rajan is equally excited about developing a new Service Learning course at Fairfield University with a Study Abroad component in the next few years, so that she can take our students to work in India alongside Loyola’s students.
Pictured: Kayla Urbanowski '17; Credit: Kayla Urbanowski