September 27, 2011 — Seven University of Virginia scholars – two graduate students and five recent graduates – have received Fulbright Scholarships to study abroad.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the federal government designed to increase mutual understanding among Americans and people of other countries.
The recipients are current students Geoffrey Barstow of Austin, Texas, and Alison Melnick of Charlottesville; and recent alumni Anna Jacobs of Charlottesville; Lauren Caldwell of Broadlands; Mike Slaven of Phoenix, and Alyssa Paredes of Herndon, all from the all from the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; and Rebecca Cooper, a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce.
"The mission of the Fulbright program embodies the University of Virginia's goal of creating good citizens and stewards of our world," said Gowher Rizvi, vice provost of international programs. "We are thrilled that so many of our students have the honor of becoming Fulbright scholars."
These graduates and students are among more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2011-2012 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
"The Fulbright Program provides a tremendous opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange," said Katherine V. Walters, assistant director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "It serves such an important role in global cooperation, understanding and tolerance. Recipients gain and give a unique perspective that undoubtedly has a positive influence on the future. I am very excited for the U.Va. recipients – it is always a competitive process and the year promises to be an enriching experience."
This year's recipients represent a wide array of disciplines and fields of study.
• Geoffrey Barstow, 32, is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in religious studies researching the social and religious history of the practice of vegetarianism in the eastern Tibetan region of Kham.
"Vegetarianism in Tibetan contexts is rare and little understood," Barstow said. "Many people don't even think it exists. That makes it interesting."
The son of David and Linda Barstow, he has bachelor of arts degrees from Hampshire College and Kathmandu University and a master of theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School. He plans a career in teaching.
"Without external funding it would be very difficult to conduct the research necessary for my dissertation," he said. "I am extremely pleased to have received the fellowship."
• Anna Jacobs, 23, is a 2010 graduate of U.Va.'s politics honors program, where she concentrated on foreign affairs and government, as well as studying French language and literature. She is researching sub-Saharan immigration into Morocco and the role that international organizations play in aiding immigrants, as well as the influence of international organizations on migration politics in the Maghreb region.
"I have spent quite a bit of time conducting research in both Morocco and Algeria, and this project is an extension of my senior thesis on migration between sub-Saharan Africa and northern Africa, as well as the migration politics between the European Union and North Africa," she said.
The daughter of Philip Jacobs and Jane Jacobs, she was a Lawn resident and an Echols Scholar; national and world news editor at the Cavalier Daily; public relations vice president of U.Va.'s Amnesty International chapter; public relations chair of Face Aids; co-chair of the Human Rights Film Festival; director of public relations for Hoos for Haiti; and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
She won the Stevenson Award for best thesis in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics' honors program, and the Fary Memorial Scholarship for academic achievement.
She plans to pursue graduate studies in political science, with a focus on comparative politics of the Maghreb region.
"The Fulbright allows me to focus on a project I may want to publish now, or later in life," Jacobs said. "It enables me to have both the experience of field work as well as the cultural experience of living in another country.
"Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction, rather than military force or economic coercion," she said. "The objective of China's soft power strategy is to assure the international community that China's rise is not a threat, but in fact contributes to world prosperity."
Caldwell, who is teaching English in Taiwan, said the Fulbright program has the power to bridge international cultural gaps.
"Last fall, while an intern at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, I found that educational and cultural exchange programs not only impact the lives of individuals, but they improve relations between countries," she said. "The Fulbright Program is particularly important in Taiwan, because it is the only formal relationship between the United States and Taiwan. As a Fulbright English teaching assistant, I am spreading knowledge of English language and also serving as a cultural ambassador and improving the relationship between Taiwan and the United States."
The daughter of Nancy and Jim Caldwell, she was a member of Volunteers with International Students and Scholars, a writer for the Cavalier Daily, was published in the Wilson Journal of International Affairs and placed in the Center for German Studies' "Car of the Future/Future of the Car" contest. She also took part in U.Va.'s intensive Chinese language program in Shanghai.
"Every moment in Taiwan has been an absolute joy," Caldwell said. "From my apartment window, I can see green rice paddies and distant mountains in shades of blue. A few blocks away, a fluorescent night market buzzes with scooters and Korean pop music. I regularly interact with precocious third-grade students and influential Taiwanese and U.S. officials. I have never been surrounded by more beautiful scenery or friendlier people, and I am so grateful that I have been granted this opportunity."
• Rebecca Cooper, 22, is a 2011 McIntire and Spanish graduate who will research microfinance and economic development in Paraguay.
"It is an opportunity for the research and type of work I would like to do in the future," she said. "I applied to get the once-in-a-lifetime experience in a developing country that I have heard everyone talk about, and I get to research something I've been very interested in."
The daughter of Wayne and Bonnie Cooper, she was a member of the Phi Sigma Pi Co-ed Honor Fraternity, and was a Harold G. Leggett Scholar for outstanding marketing, U.Va. Parents Committee summer intern and a Day in the Life tutor. She has also worked for the ONE Campaign, a global advocacy group that focuses on alleviating world poverty.
After her Fulbright research, she plans to pursue a master's degree in international development, international policy or international development economics.
"I am interested in Japanese consumerism and product design, particularly in the ideologies that become embedded in commodities on sale," she said. "Given the rising anxieties concerning socially responsible means of production and consumption caused by the Great Tohoku Earthquake, I have also become interested in exploring the 'alternative' industries that spring forth from Japan's changing sociopolitical and economic climate."
The daughter of Elizabeth Paredes, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Chapter of Virginia; a distinguished major in East Asian studies; a Mastercard Scholar in Asian studies; a foreign language and area studies fellowship recipient; a Dean's Scholarship recipient; and vice president of the Japan Club and the Virginia Anthropology Society. She is also a member of the Japanese National Honor Society, a recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship and a participant in the Intermediate Japanese Program in Kyoto, Japan.
After spending a year in Japan doing ethnographic research on the Fulbright, she plans to obtain a Ph.D. in anthropology, then pursue a career as a professor and scholar of Japanese anthropology.
"I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity to explore Japan in ways I never have before," she said. "I look forward to searching for the answers to some of my longstanding questions, but more importantly, I expect to come back with more interesting, well-formulated and timely questions. I am confident that the Fulbright fellowship will open up many more doors in the future."
• Alison Melnick, 30, is a religious studies graduate student researching 17th- and 18th-century institutional developments in Tibetan Buddhism, focusing on the life of Tibetan nun Mingyur Peldrön, her role in the revival of Mindröling Monastery in Central Tibet and the influence of her lived memory among modern Tibetans.
"While there is increasingly more scholarship on the lives of female historical religious figures, we know very little about their relationships to larger monastic institutions," she said. "Even though Mingyur Peldrön was one of the most prominent female monastic leaders of her time, there is almost no English language scholarship about her. My hope is that a study of her life will contribute to a more holistic view of Tibetan Buddhist history and, by extension, will help deepen our understanding of women's roles in religious history around the world."
The daughter of Trish Melnick and Len Melnick and Meg Seiler, she has a bachelor of arts degree in Asian languages and literature from the University of Michigan. She plans to teach at the university level and to contribute to the field of Tibetan Studies.
"I feel honored and excited to join the ranks of Fulbright Scholars," she said. "This award will help fund nine months of dissertation research in India and will connect me to the rest of the international Fulbright community."
• Mike Slaven, 26, a 2007 graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in government, is researching migration politics in the United Kingdom at the University of Edinburgh, where he is enrolled in a master of science program in international and European politics.
"I'll be taking a look at the British experience in reforming migration laws since after the Labor Party came to power most recently in 1997," he said. "Many major changes were made, especially in the past decade, but it's an open question now whether those changes were politically sustainable. I'm interested in how academics, practitioners and voters here perceive their country's own migration-related issues and how changes in policy are realized politically."
Slaven said immigration is an extensively debated topic in his home state of Arizona.
"Migration has always been a topic that has interested me because of how closely immigration is related to the American experience," he said. "But it is a global phenomenon, and learning how other countries perceive of their own related issues is important."
The son of Terrence Slaven and Christine Coffey, he was editor-in-chief of the Cavalier Daily and a Lawn resident. Since graduating, he worked for the then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, herself a 1983 graduate of U.Va.'s School of Law. He also worked as a speechwriter for Napolitano after she had been appointed secretary of Homeland Security.
The Fulbright Program is primarily funded by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, with indirect support from participating governments, host institutions, corporations and foundations. Grant recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 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.